Collates millions of human feelings from blogs from around the world.
Organisation URL: www.wefeelfine.org
As people get older, they tend to express less anger and disgust. They become kinder and more forgiving, happier and more generous. This is one of the most striking insights drawn from a remarkable artwork, We Feel Fine, that reveals the secret emotional life of the digital world. We Feel Fine, a software-generated, interactive online artwork, was started in August 2005 by coders-cum-artists Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. It remains one of the most inspirational attempts to visualise the shared human emotions that lie behind the impersonal big data that the digital world is generating.
We Feel Fine’s software harvests expressions of human feeling. 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 the programme finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence and identifies the “feeling” it expresses. As blogs are structured in standard ways, the age, gender, and location of the author can often be extracted along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written.
The result is a database of millions of human feelings. Each of the most common 150 expressions of feeling – better, bad, good, right, guilty – has been assigned a colour and each instance of the expression becomes a particle in the artwork. Once the work is opened, the particles careen wildly around the screen. When asked to reveal different vantage points on the state of human emotions through playful interactive interfaces, the feelings are shown as mounds and swarms, mobs of common feelings, and montages of the pictures bloggers have posted.
We Feel Fine is an artwork for its age. Between 2005 and 2009 it collected 13 million expressions of feeling from more than 2.3 million people, the majority of them in the US and young women. (It may be no surprise that women use the words “I feel” far more than men, and express a much more varied and nuanced set of emotions.)
We Feel Fine is an artistic oxymoron: authored by millions but created without human intervention. It uses impersonal software to reveal the ebb and flow of human feelings around the world.
Image 'We Feel Fine, Jonathan Harris & Sep Kamvar' courtesy of Alejandro Giacometti
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014