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Shared emotions -- at your fingertips

October 08, 2006|CHRISTINE N. ZIEMBA

Part electronic art project and part social science experiment, the website We Feel Fine ( harvests human feelings from inside the matrix -- Keanu notwithstanding -- collecting sentences that contain "I feel" or "I am feeling" from a number of popular blogs, including My Space, LiveJournal, Flickr and Google.

"The Internet is often considered a cold, inhuman place, but there is a huge amount of human sentiment hiding there," writes Brooklyn-based Internet artist Jonathan Harris, who launched the site in May with collaborator and Stanford professor Sepandar Kamvar. "I was interested in illuminating it."

We Feel Fine not only captures the sentiments of bloggers but also collects photographs accompanying the entries and demographic information from the authors' profile pages -- and then some. According to the site's "Methodology" page: " ... we can then retrieve the local weather conditions for that city at the time the post was written."

The 5 million (and growing) feelings in the collection are displayed in playful interfaces called "movements." Click on a blue floating circle on the "Madness" page (the first movement) to reveal the thoughts of a New Yorker, who wrote the following under sunny skies: "I feel guilty almost every time I don't give money to a panhandler ... I could be in their place and on the other hand giving money to every panhandler would leave me penniless myself."

Visitors can also conduct database searches within certain parameters. A query to find the "feelings of men, age 20 to 29 when it's raining in Rhode Island," yields about a dozen results, including this post: " ... I hope she is very happy and feels she made the right decision."

We Feel Fine's purpose is to show how alike people are -- no matter where they're blogging from.

"We all have our unique private moments -- our times of joy, sadness, euphoria, boredom -- and those moments belong to each of us," writes Harris in an e-mail. "Yet from another perspective, those moments are also shared moments, incredibly similar to the things experienced by others. So in the end, we're all pretty similar. Maybe this can help us get along."


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