Monday, July 16, 2007

Do you feel fine?

I first came across this creation by Jonathan Harris about a year ago. I was sitting in a meeting at an ad agency waiting for a client to arrive and one of the other people in the room just put it up on the screen. bascially displays human emotions posted to blogs - it does this with fascinating, interactive visuals. The emotions are picked from a list of prescribed words and when a sentence is encountered that looks like it might be an emotional post, the engine does a bunch of processing to try and confirm, and uploads the entry (just the sentence).

My first thoughts were that there was no way this was representative of ALL human emotions in the world at that moment. It was just in English, not other languages. It was younger people posting - representing the blogging world more than the real world. Some of the sentences were obviously not 'real' emotions ("I think I feel a cut behind my ear"). Etc. etc.

In the end, none of that mattered. My first thoughts were getting lost in the aggregate. As we looked at more and more entries, I discovered that it was each individual entry that mattered the most. You connected with them. For a small moment, you were in someone else's world. Felt a little bit of their happiness, or a smattering of their pain.

While the aggregation of these emotions was largely meaningless, their disaggregation was highly meaningful. It was there you found the human connection, the true 'art' of the piece.

Thinking in the aggregate is hard not to do. And it's not always wrong. It's just never complete.

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