Where are most people finding connection? Are we finding it face-to-face with family, friends, and neighbors? Or are our deepest connections happening in cyberspace?
In August 2005, Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar started a project called We Feel Fine. With the growth of the social web and the increasing number of bloggers, they saw a unique opportunity to create a program that would search the web for the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling.” They then created a colorful and interactive mapping system based on gender, age, location, and feeling. The project resulted in a database of several million feelings, increasing by 10,000 or 15,000 each day.
What I find most provocative about this project is the underlying assumption made in We Feel Fine. By sharing emotion via the Internet a new sort of community can be formed. It is a community where people are most free to express themselves. It is a community where people are finding not only their own voice, but the voices of others that bring a sense of solidarity in whatever they may be feeling. It is a community that is as flexible and dynamic as the emotion bearers that it represents.
Can real community be formed and found without face-to-face contact? Are emotions shared more genuinely when typed in silence before a screen or when spoken with voice and facial expression? What we all must face is that we live in a world that is becoming increasingly inclined to express itself remotely. Like the We Feel Fine project, are we willing to embrace this growing trend in our culture and try to make sense of what it is? Or will we fight to deny it?
Explore the project here: www.wefeelfine.org