Global Moodscape

Photo via We Feel Fine

Our daily ventures in texting, emailing, blogging, tweeting and simply clicking has become an immense datascape of human activity, migration, interests, and lately, emotional wellness.

Several projects currently aim to track our sentiments on a global and local scale:

The Planetary Mood Ring: Billed as a ‘gigantic feelings aggregator’ works by submissions, called ‘moodies’, is sorted out by geo-spatial location and show moods of entire countries, cities or towns, highways, your own neighborhood, office or household. People are encouraged to  enrich the whole Planetary Mood Ring by attaching words, videos and photos to their moodies, revealing the cause of their current mood. The project aims to provide a massive emotional pulse check on the planet that runs continually in the form of a colored collective ‘blip,’ represented as a color wheel inspired by the mood rings of the 1970s. For example. blue and violet would signify people being in cooler, calmer and more satisfied states whilst ambers and reds would represent a civilization in a deep state of angst.

We Feel FIne: Launched in 2005 by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, We Feel Fine is an exploration of human emotion on a global scale, in the form of a website, a book and collective artwork authored by everyone. We Feel Fine harvests human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.The community is encouraged to help visualize these sentiments via the gallery.

D-Tower: D-Tower is an art piece, commissioned by the city of Doetinchem in the Netherlands, that maps the emotions of the inhabitants of Doetinchem. A collaboration with NOX, a Rotterdam architecture firm and Serafijn, a Rotterdam artist, the project utilizes a physical structure (tower) to convey the daily moods of 50 selected people from the small town, who answer different questions on the website daily. From this data, the tower illuminates to show the feeling of the day, in the form of blue for happiness, red for love, green for hate and yellow for fear.

Lars Spuybroek, architect, NOX, explains his public project of turning a tower into an emotional symbol of a small town in the Netherlands:

First, I guess, I would have to explain what a D-Tower is. That’s another collaboration I did with an artist also from Rotterdam. His name is Serafijn. He is doing a lot of art in the community, either with video or interactive, and we collaborated. We were asked to do a tower, whatever it was, but it needed to be a tower because the Mayor thought it should be a tower. And we suggested a website and they liked that idea a lot, and they said, “Yeah, you can do a website, but you also have to do a tower.” [laughs] So then at a certain moment it became a tower, a website, and a questionnaire. And the questionnaire was on four emotions: love, hate, happiness and fear. And, basically, what we do is each year 50 people are selected. There’s a small town in the East of the Netherlands, on the German border that has 50,000 inhabitants. And of these 50,000, each year 50 get the password. And these 50 people are from all the neighborhoods in the city. So it’s well represented. And each of these 50 they can access the website but we cannot because it’s a certain part of the website that’s only for them with the password. And each four days they get a new set of questions about their emotional lives.

And the website has these four landscapes. So we can see, on the website, we can see how love is doing, how hate is doing – how these four emotions are doing according to the peaks and valleys of the responses on this graph. Now what happens is that each evening when the sun sort of sets the computer can check which emotion is doing the best that day. So when love is #1 the tower becomes red. Because there is this tower in this city. With happiness, it’s blue. With hate, it’s green. And with fear, it’s yellow. So there is this object in the city, there’s this object in the city, and people come from work, it’s a very prominent place in the city. And they can actually, when they drive home and it’s getting dark, they can see if it’s green for hate or blue for happiness. That is very intense. Because the moment they see that object as having one color they know it is representing the whole city.

So this idea of qualia immediately is coloring the whole city. This is directly connected to emotions. More like a symbolism. More like a symbol.

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