Emo Cities

Aleph of Emotions is an experimental art project by Mithru Vigneshwara at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore.

“The camera-like interface allows users to point along a particular direction, focus to a place along that direction, and click to view a visualization of emotions in that place. The intention is to explore and find patterns in human emotions with relation to space and time.

The Aleph, according to the author, Jorge Luis Borges, is a point in the Universe where all other points exist. Therefore, anyone looking at the Aleph could see everything in the Universe at once. In this project, I use the Aleph as a metaphor for an archive; Aleph of Emotions refers to an archive of emotions. This archive is produced by data collected from Twitter. Data is collected based on keywords that define certain emotions. The results are finally presented with an interactive object.”

Digital Stories

Blog posts, tweets, statuses, pins…are all digital footprints. Often loosely arranged, occasionally they knit together as the new “timelines” of our emotional lives. The stories they tell can be dreamy, cringeworthy or not *exactly* how it happened. Jonathan Harris at TED shows his “photographic heartbeat” project, The Whale Hunt, that poetically blurs the lines between data viz, heart-rates, art, computer science and emotion. He calls it “an experiment in human storytelling”, we call it beautiful.

There’s no sunshine when she’s gone….

Dutch design firm CleverFranke  harvested 714,843 pieces of digital flotsam about the weather from social media, blogs and elsewhere for their latest project. The aim: to show the relationship between weather and sentiment in Holland.

The design result is a spiderweb of loveliness, refined and minimalist. But it would have even lovelier with some interactivity. A zoom? Can we go deeper? See the actual tweets, blogs mentions and more…


This weather chart project* continues to support the notion that we can see how expressions of emotion/sentiment/mood reflect the real-life landscape of our world. In this instance sunshine hours and positive sentiment** show an incredible correlation.

Sometimes things go without saying, but we still love to see it confirmed in the data.
What they found:

  • It’s cold in December and people feel negative about that.
  • The Dutch love sun – more so, sentiment ratings and sunshine hours  are closely correlated as shown below.
  • There’s a lot more weather chatter in the summer months.
  • When it’s Spring (and there is very little rain – April) people are happier.

*data from Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

** Sentiment analysis by Ai-Applied.

Your Digital Self

I Want You to Want Me by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar made me think: it’s a huge, goddamn lonely digital universe out there. It feels like, as researchers (and people) we’ve just launched an exploration into a new cosmos and the results are sometimes more unnerving than fascinating.

I Want You To Want Me is a haunting, beautiful, interactive installation that Harris and Kamvar built for the Elastic Mind exhibition at MOMA in 2008. The duo harvested data from online dating sites and then visualized it in a series of floating pink (female) and blue (male) interactive balloons. Viewers can touch a balloon which then reveals bits of the data – like people’s opening or closing lines on their dating profiles or what they’re looking for in a partner.

I Want You to Want Me - Feel Me

I Want You To Want Me, looking for...

I Want You to Want Me, looking for love

Like their other (also beautiful) project, We Feel Fine,it’s divided into movements.

Closers reveals closing lines from users’ profiles:

Hurt me and you die (19-year-old woman looking for a woman in Orange County, California)
Did i mention that i’m nice? (36-year-old man looking for a woman in Omaha, Nebraska)
Also I would like to get married before my 30th birthday. (27-year-old woman looking for a man in Waupaca, Wisconsin)

Another movement is sillouettes depicting shadowy representations of online daters trapped in balloons.

I Want You To Want Me, balloon guy
I Want You To Want Me, girl in balloon

Maybe it was the background music of the Youtube video, or some of the lines, but it really punched a hole in my chest. The floating balloon graphics weren’t people anymore but more like lonely digital ghosts.  Ghosts of our previous analogue selfs?
It’s unchartered space. It’s filled with expression. We can better understand ourselves with the help of social data and design. I get this. This explains away the new charge of data visualizations, apps and tools that help us quantify and analyse our emotions.

But maybe it’s also the start of something else. That the web is now laying bare the complexities of human relationships. That is has always been a goddamn lonely universe out there,  but for the first time we can see it. As we start to uncover our digital selves through data and design, we see the traces of our digital adventures and our new digital existence. We see what we’ve become or what we’ve always been. Either way, this self, seeking love, looks lonely.
– Natalie Dixon