Thursday, September 4, 2008

The emotional Internet

As it evolves, who can miss the fact that the Internet is becoming more and more emotional? To claim it was an emotional place even five years ago raised eyebrows (I know because I remember raising my own). Many people, and not only young ones, have learnt to share how they feel online in ways that would have been inconceivable when we began our tentative attempts at those mysterious functions: email, browsing, search, purchasing and blogging. If you still have doubts about this reshaping of cyberspace, visit We Feel Fine. This wonderful site is the brain child (or is it lovechild?) of Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. The site is inspired by a simple idea about a simple phrase. The phrase is “I feel” (or “I am feeling”) and the idea is to gather together all the instances where it appears on the Web. Harris and Kamvar then present them in what they call 'six movements'. This has nothing to do with orchestral music, and is all about six different and interesting ways they have identified to theme their examples. And, as usual, examples explain the idea best.

I feel pretty.
I feel I don’t really have a clue what love is.
I feel the ghosts were cool but unnecessary.
I feel so lonely.
I feel like every time I find a product I really rave about, they change it.
I feel that I’m somehow being blackmailed into using Facebook.
Etc. Etc.

It’s like dipping into a sea of unmediated emotion. Strangely compelling. Harris and Kamvar do offer more structure if you want to take that route. How are people affected by weather? What are the effects of sun and snow? How about gender and age? Does the fact people live in Germany or Brazil make a difference? And of course, all the answers you uncover are based on an algorithm and your own imagination. What a great way to uncover insight into yourself. If an “I feel” happens to be attached to a photograph (yes, you can get that too) it often brings up some really bizarre results. Example: A hand with SOS printed on it and the thoughtful comment, “I’m not sure how I feel about Pierce Brosnan singing”.

The one problem with the site is serious sensory overload, though it was more than off-set when I was clicking around by the theme of most shared feeling where “Feeling better” was ahead of negative feelings by miles. Once again, proof that human beings are essentially positive and optimistic. One of the phrases sums it up beautifully, “I feel better everyday, and that’s as it should be”.

1 comment:

Jonathan Gunson said...

About to launch my blog, but this advice has made me hold off and substantially alter the design and tone to the more emotional. i.e. Human.

So thanks. I'm definitely feeling good about this. :-)

Jonathan Gunson
http://www.Twitter.com/Jonathan_Gunson