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Top 10 Feelings Worldwide: We Feel Fine

Feel festive, cheerful and blessed around the holidays–but then slide into the doldrums in the first weeks of the New Year? Financially illiterate and then suddenly started blogging about how the ups and downs of the stock market impacted you emotionally? Felt patriotic–or depressed–when Obama was elected?

Oh yes, the internet knows.

Talk about following the zeitgeist: Computer programmers Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris have spent more than four years collecting some 12 million emotions posted on Internet blogs. Turns out we’re a pretty predicable bunch: Patterns of the calendar, news events and even the weather influence how we say we feel. And as an increasing number of bloggers worldwide share their lives publicly, we’re developing a new relationship with computers, our fellow bloggers and ourselves.

And this holiday season, you can track your emotions in their strikingly beautiful, glossy gift book, We Feel Fine (Scribner, Dec. 1), that uses sophisticated computer science to underpin its findings about modern human emotion. The brainchild of Kamvar, a professor of computational mathematics at Stanford University, and Harris, a systems designer, the data collected comes from a program that scans all blogs every few minutes and extracts the sentences that contain “I feel” or “I am feeling.” Since blogs often have public profiles, the duo was able to determine the gender, age, and location of the people expressing these emotions to boot.

Kamvar said he and Harris hope to tell both macro stories of emotional trends, including informational graphics and maps, and micro stories of individuals complete with a photo and corresponding feeling. “We wanted the reader to be able to seamlessly transition between the high-level statistics of emotion and the individual stories that make up these statistics.”

“Our [original] intent was to show that there was beauty and humanity in the web,” said Kamvar of their 2005 website born as social networking media was coming of age. ” As time went on and we collected large amounts of data, we realized that we were also building an archive of emotional history.”

As We Feel Fine: An Almanac of Human Emotion hit the shelves yesterday, Kamvar, a college classmate, sat down with me for a Q&A.

Check out my interview on the Huffington Post… and tweet it up for one and all!

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December 30, 2009 - Posted by | Academic Musings, Self-Help | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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