Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Pulse of the Nation

I wonder will the boundaries between art and science disappear in years to come? Might seem like a silly question, but when you look at what artists like Jonathan Harris are doing using state-of-the-art data manipulation technologies to create stunning works of art then I think the answer might be 'yes'.

We've been using a combination of different techniques to measure the 'mood of the nation' at my company (Amárach Research) these past few months. It's in the space I call (for want of something better) 'real time research' or RTR. Instead of the clunky process of going out and finding people willing to participate in research and then process their answers, RTR uses the explosion of user-created content to find out what's going on right now. Ultimately the 'old' and the 'new' ways will be complementary of course, and I realise we're still at very, very early stages.

Which is why Harris' We Feel Fine project blew me away when I came across it (sorry for the hyperbole, but that's how I felt!) Just click on 'Open We Feel Fine', select Ireland from the Country list and then watch the nation's feeling pour out through the beautiful interface designed by the people behind the project. It's as stunning a combination of art and science I've come across in some time.

Listen also to Harris' talks at TED to get a feel for what motivates him as an artist and computer scientist. I know it's hackneyed, but the guy is a genius. I realise we're in the foothills with our RTR work at Amárach, but Harris has shown us the peak.

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