Making Strangers Less Strange

20 Day Stranger

The MIT Media Lab’s Playful Systems Group and the Dalai Lama Center for Transformative Ethics have launched a new experiment called 20 Day Stranger.

The central hypothesis: Can a mobile application change the way we think about strangers?

Aim: The mobile app aims to create an intimate and anonymous connection between you and another person – a total stranger. Details – like name, age and address – will never revealed. For 20 days, both strangers are meant to continuously update each other about where they are, what they are doing, and eventually how they are feeling.

The rationale: In a world mediated through computing, our everyday lives are increasingly affected by complex and invisible systems. Some of these are algorithmic trades on the stock market, others are search results for information, movies, or a date. These systems often aspire to transparency, usability, and efficiency. Playful systems take a different approach, bringing the systems to the foreground as games, stories, narratives, and visualizations. Playful systems embrace complexity rather than conceal it, and seek to delight, not disappear.

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.”

Playful City Experiments

I recently met Cambridge social computing researcher Daniele Quercia at a 30-minute lunch time talk at University College London. He presented fascinating work that uses Twitter data to compare sentiment between neighbourhoods in London. More on that in another post hopefully. But, it started me thinking again about cities and emotion – one of the strongest research threads of Affect Lab. It reminded me of these greats projects:

Public Face II, by artists Richard Wilhelmer, Julius von Bismarck and Benjamin Maus. It uses facial recognition software to measure the mood of residents in Lindau, Germany. The 8-metre high smiley – installed on a lighthouse and made of steel and neon tubes – changes shape as the mood does…



How Do You Feel Helsinki? a project conducted by IBM and initiated by the city of Helsinki using user-inputted data to visualize the emotions of city dwellers.
How do you feel Helsinki?