The Hunt for Affect

View from the frog office Amsterdam
View from the frog office Amsterdam

For the past 6 months I have been collaborating with frog, a global design and innovation company in Amsterdam on a design research project. It all culminates in a book (forthcoming), published by the University of Amsterdam Press. Below is the abstract. – Natalie Dixon

Emotions represent some of our most deeply private and personal experiences. Cocooned in an intimate cluster of our personality, life stories and DNA, most times they are completely inscrutable, even to ourselves. Yet, in the minimally chartered tundra of emotion research, explorers hunt for affective charges. Running wild these charges are released into the atmosphere during our everyday tasks and encounters. Do you feel fascination or amusement right now? Did your feeling of warm content rapidly collapse into seething rage this morning when your coffee machine demanded a filter clean before you even blinked hello? Does your mobile phone intimidate you?
The first explorers turned to the expression of emotions in man and animals; later biometric measurements; then a taxonomy of facial expressions; and more recently chartering the Internet, navigating the woven web between people and their online social networks. What makes the hunt so addictive is the holy grail it offers: an understanding of people’s motivation and ultimately behaviour. In the context of design, capturing emotional charge offers the shining promise of design clues, access to a world where emotional responses shape the design agenda of everything we use and own. In a project lasting seven months, spanning Amsterdam and Munich, frog design and embedded researcher Natalie Dixon joined the hunt.

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