i feel…observed

Ever wondered if everyone feels sadder on rainy days, or if everyone actually feels more annoyed on Valentine’s than in love? If women feel fatter than men, or if people in North Dakota feel lonelier than New Yorkers? Apparently computer science innovators Jonathan Harris and Sepandar Kamvar were wondering the same thing, and the answer was wefeelfine.org, an experimental website that routinely collects thousands of bits of new information from new web blogs every ten minutes.

The system searches through sites like LiveJournal, Myspace, Google, and Flickr for sentences containing the phrase “I feel, or “I’m feeling”. It harvests the information and stores it in a database, organized in a user-friendly way that enables you to see how many people wrote about feeling happy a week ago, and whether it was a sunny or rainy day for them. The information is organized in colorful, interactive charts or randomly floating blobs, like a million conversations literally hanging in outer space.
This project reminded me of Twistori, a self- described ongoing social experiment that randomly mines Twitter conversations for sentences containing one of 6 key words: Love, Hate, Think, Believe, Feel, and Wish. Twistori enables you to pick a feeling, then see a streaming list of statements people have recently said about that feeling.
Creator of We Feel Fine, Jonathan Harris, is also responsible for other social research projects like the world’s largest Time Capsule, commissioned by Yahoo, and I Want You to Want Me, an interactive art piece about love and dating commissioned at MOMA. You may have heard of his photography documentation of a traditional Alaskan Whale Hunt. Check ‘em out, the kid’s genious, and this may very well be precursor to a whole new form of social research.

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