How's the internet feeling today?

“We Feel Fine” was an inspired project from artist and internet technologist Jonathan Harris at the Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle last week. Photos of childhood scrapbooks, oil paintings and sketches from travels were the intro to his presentation, one that took an alternative approach to creative thinking.

It was whilst studying computer science at Princeton, Harris noticed the gap between his artistic leanings and computer expertise. “We Feel Fine” bridges the gap and brings together elements of computer science, anthropology, visual art and story telling, examining the world through artifacts found online.

“We Feel Fine” explores human emotion with blog analysis, glimpsing inside the hearts and minds of people online. His complex computer programmes scour the internet for unfiltered content, interpreting it into visual interfaces and, in turn, making sense of the digital world we call the “web”.

Every few minutes the system searches new blog entries for the words “I feel” and “I am feeling”. The database is increasing by 15,000 to 20,000 new feelings every day. Information about the author is included such as gender, location and even the weather conditions at the time of writing. Questions like – How are people feeling right now in Baghdad? What are the happiest cities in the world? Or, even, the saddest? These can all be answered. Feelings are then presented in a series of playful interfaces, each painting a different picture of human emotion.

These days the internet is changing. It’s no longer the cold, clinical place it once was and as blogs become increasingly important as a form of self expression, more human emotion is harbored within.

Harris’ last project, Whale Hunt, documented an eight day Alaskan whale hunt with photographs taken at 5 minute intervals (that’s 3, 412 photos in all). Intervals between shots were shortened at times of excitement – like when the whale was killed, for example - to provide a photogenic heartbeat along the bottom of the screen. Harris called it:

“An experiment in human story telling”

As the user sifts through the emotions like an archealogist sifting through sand for ancient relics they, by extention, feel connected to them. Observing all these different emotions gives a fascinating insight into our culture and how we communiate in this, increasingly digital age.

Jonathan Harris also records human desire (, modern mythology (, science (, news ( and language with (