Understanding humanity through emotional connections – Jonathan Harris

I’m a fan of the work of artist Jonathan Harris, who does a better job of visualizing complex and overwhelmingly vast sets of information better than analysts. The above snapshot comes from We Feel Fine .org – which tracks the emotional state of the blogosphere in real time and lets you mine that data for patterns. For example, at 8pm on Thursday, October 21, 2010 the most common emotional phrases were better, good, bad, alone, and confident.

But the real kicker is Jonathan’s most recent project: I want you to want me. As he explains it:

"In online dating profiles what people do is they talk about themselves in 200 words and they say the most important things about themselves. So it is a fertile ground for building a mosaic of humanity."
-Jonathan Harris

Dating data is a rich set of related information within a clear context, and yet I’ve never seen any anthropologist or sociologist turn out something so straightforward and beautiful. Why do academic projects remain ugly and half-finished and artist projects become a thing of beauty? We should all strive to see beauty in everything we do.

I would love to be able to visualize stories about the work going on in Kenya or Afghanistan through stories of 200 words and an associated drawing in a bubble. I imagine we would find common threads that we didn’t expect to see in them.

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