Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We Feel Fine (?)

The Dow just fell another 508 points today. Maybe it's a good time to crowdsource a little empathy? If you haven't yet, check out We Feel Fine, Jonathan Harris' digital storytelling project. It harvests human feelings, in close to real-time, from the Net. It's a kind of minute-to-minute barometer of social well-being, culled from emotions expressed in everybody's blog postings—whether written from New York, Nairobi, or Vietnam. Harris harvests some 20,000 of these posts per day—just the ones that include the phrases "I feel" or "I am feeling." In the past three years, he's gathered more than 10 million entries. Go here to explore the site. Click on one of the floating dots. It's like taking the emotional pulse of the blogosphere.

Among some feelings expressed within the past hour:

* I am not making great claims for anything although I do feel we need to go for something more radical than state control of failing finance institutions
* I feel like I'm going to break in two
* I was a young volunteer for JFK and even Richard Milhous Nixon is beginning to feel warm and fuzzy compared to these guys
* I feel like a musician looking for a new piano

To see a short video of Harris explaining it all on Pangea Day in May, click HERE.

Organizers of last year's PICNIC conference in Amsterdam called Harris' work "one part computer science, one part anthropology, and one part visual art that seeks to explore and understand the human world through the artifacts people leave behind on the Web." For his part, Harris says We Feel Fine is "authored by everyone" and will "grow and change as we grow and change, reflecting what's on our blogs, in our hearts, and on our minds...I hope it makes the world seem a little smaller."

Harris' other Net storytelling projects explore human desire, modern mythology, science, news, and language. For more on Harris, go to his Web site, number27.org.

(Photograph of image on iron door by Knud Nielsen)

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