this.astro and Come in Cielo Così in Terra at MACRO museum in Rome for the Global Astronomy Month



“Even the ties with stars are misleading. But, even for a single moment, believing in the shape brings us joy. And that is enough.” R. M. Rilke

On April 28th, 2012, AOS will be at the MACRO museum in Rome with this.astro and Come in Cielo Così in Terra, an installation and a workshop created in occasion of the Global Astronomy Month.

Both the installation and the workshop invert the direction of the axis running from earth into space, to the stars.

Horoscopes, oracles, astrology, have brought the life of the stars into our lives, establishing relations between the destinies of the universe and those of human beings.

We chose to reverse this radically top-down approach, to investigate on the bottom-up philosophy which is central to our contemporary years: enabled by the ubiquitous accessibility of digital technologies and networks, the destiny of human beings seems to progressively interconnect to our possibility to establish collaborative relationships and peer-2-peer dynamics.

THIS.ASTRO generates a star-filled sky in real time: each star is an interaction on social networks; stars join together to form evolving constellations, according to the ways in which people take part in discussions online. A peculiar User-Generated Horoscope in which the destiny of human beings (e.g.: the shapes and positions of constellations) is determined by the ways in which people collaborate.

Come in Cielo Così in Terra is a workshop in which we will bring the sky into the streets of our cities. A free/libre application will be created/used during the workshop allowing people to form groups, select a constellation and draw it onto the streets of the city of Rome by walking through it, in a city-wide GPS-based drawing performed collaboratively with our bodies. An investigation on collaboration, ubiquitous technologies, collaboration, and the new ways of experiencing cities and the relations with our fellow human beings.

And here is the info for the event:

April 28th 2012

Connect the Dots and See the Unseen

MACROeo (electronicOrphanage) presents, on Saturday April 28th 2012, staring at 13:13, Connect the Dots and See the Unseen, an event focused on the relationships between arts and sciences, in which artists and visitors will actively reflect onto the observation and explanation of celestial events, through workshops, projections, internet-connected artworks by the Laurent Faulon and Delphine Reist, Stefano Canto, Daniela De Paulis and AOS – Art is Open Source.

The event is curated by Elena Abbiatici and Valentina G.Levy, and is organized in occasion of the GAM2012 (Global Astronomy Month 2012), organized by Astronomers Without Borders, an organization which promotes knowledge and interrelation among human beings, going beyond national and cultural borders, gathering together professional astronomers, educators and sky lovers from all parts of the world.


at 13.13: Stellarium Antipodor site specific installation by Stefano Canto

starting at 13.13: this.astro real-time installation by Art is Open Source

at 14.14: Come in Cielo Così in Terra, astro-workshop by Art is Open Source

at 18.18: video by Delphine Reist

at 20.20: performance by Laurent Faulon and Daniela De Paulis


more info at the MACRO Museum:


“Anche il legame delle stelle inganna. Ma ci dia gioia per un attimo soltanto credere alla figura. Tanto basta.” R. M. Rilke

“I can boast to having experimented this truth: human beings, at the entrance to life, when not able to persist in mother’s womb anymore, and starts living on his own, receives a mark, an image of all the celestial constellations, the marks of the influences of planets; and conserves this characteristics until the tomb” Keplero

“A concatenation of cause and effect does not constitute between human and stars; on the opposite, stars and humans are engaged in a global simultaneity, such as that stars are the signs of human beings in the way that human beings are the signs of stars. […] One is externally what the other one is internally […] Stars determine us, because we carry this determination inside ourselves.” A. Barbault

“the starry sky is an open book of the cosmic projection, a reflex of the mythologems, of archetypes” C. G. Jung



the ecosystem

the ecosystem

We can consider our ecosystem as an interlinked stratification of different contexts.

While designing an experience (or a series of different experiences) we can choose to focus on different layers of our living ecosystem: we can decide to focus on one, two or all of them. Wether we choose to focalize our attention on one domain or on multiple ones, we have to make sure that we traverse these domains in ways that make sense, with a purpose, creating experiences which put to good use the possibility to operate according to multiple modalities.

Here, we choose to make a distinction according to three modalities:

  • physical space
  • information space
  • communication and interaction space

This is not the only way in which it is possible to classify the things which characterize our experience of the world, but we chose these ones as they will serve a specific purpose in the following activities.

While using these types of classifications it is important to remember that they are porous and fluid, and things often change their classification whenever you change the perspective according to which you look at them.

Physical space is where the body is. We can describe physical space according to what our senses [1] allow us.

Even here a note must be made: there are 5 classically recognized senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste). Yet there are different additional ones which the researchers who operate on neuro-sciences have identified. One, for example, is proprioception, [2] the sense of being present, of being in a certain place; or the internal senses which allow us to perceive when we are hungry, or cold, and more.

Multiple researches have discovered the ways in which all these senses work, how they allow us to experience the world, our bodies, our presence, and the places in which we stay [3] [4] ,  and how we use them to gain insights and understanding from the world  [5] [6] [7].

In short, it is possible to say that through the physical experience of the world, as mediated through our senses and our possibility to move and to enact mechanical processes, we are able to explore and gain understanding of the environment in which we are in, as well as of ourselves and our role within the world [8] [9] .

Physical space is not the only way in which we can observe the world.

Information space is where we experience information.

In its strictest definition, information is is an ordered sequence of symbols that can be interpreted as a message.

Information can be recorded as signs, or transmitted as signals. It is any kind of event which affects the state of a dynamic system. [10]

Information is everywhere, in fact. Each thing we see, each odor we smell, each texture we touch, everything conveys information: we live in a state of continuous interpretation of the things we experience in the environment which surrounds us. And each of these things can be interpreted in multiple ways, according to our personal approach, to our cultural background, to our personal history. And, thus, each place, object, sign, sound can bear different types of information for different people, from points of view that are emotional, cultural, symbolical.

The encounter and and possibility for interaction of multiple interpretations of the world, giving rise to different information for the same elements of the environment, is of specific importance: it is where two or more interpretations meet that intersubjective, collective experiences take place, at the border, in the interstices of our spaces where cultures meet and engage each other.

Colors, shapes, layouts, patterns, can incorporate meaning which are significative for us alone or for entire communities.

In each of these interpretations, each time that “something” comes to form meaning according to a certain perspective, information is formed.

Information, with the act of being recognized, changes the state of systems, where with the term of “system” we can allude to any simple or complex dynamic process, such as a human being walking down the road, a party, a work session, or a lesson at the university.

When an individual walks down a road and arrives at a crossroad, the traffic light visually communicates bits of information, thus causing the person to mutate behavior.

When we place our hand near a flame, the heat becomes information, causing us to quickly change the direction of our hand-movement.

When a notification arrives to a certain information system, a notification window might pop-up on our screen.

All our environments are fully coded with elements whose role is to convey different types of information, from signage, to lights, to the shapes of urban furniture, to our dress-codes, to the ways in which products are laid out in the aisles supermarkets, to the music we unconsciously listen to in airports.

During these last decades, the role of information has drastically changed in our societies. Information is produced in massive doses on ubiquitous technological systems in a variety of ways, involving a multiplicity of types of different subjects, from enormous multinationals and their gigantic information systems, to the small, continuous bits of digital information which we all generate nowadays while performing our daily activities, from purchasing products in stores, to using our mobile phones, to participating to social networks.

Digital information has become ubiquitous, causing our world to mutate: everything can now possibly be transformed into a screen [11], and the possibility to interconnect people, objects, architectures and places to each other using digital devices and networks has brought the concept of “hyperlinking” from computer monitors into our cities and into our daily lives [12].

We can, thus, augment our design processes to include digital information as an ubiquitous building material.

This, of course, has always taken place: if, for example, we focus on the concept of affordance – the concept which describes how form conveys information about the possible, suggested usages of objects, places and processes – we will see how even the most physical forms of design are deeply aware about information.

In ways which are becoming completely similar to the ones we use while designing the visual meaning of objects, signs, buildings, clothes or rooms, we can now design the ways in which digital information is linked and accessible from those same elements.

Using ubiquitous technologies and ubiquitous publishing practices, we can publish digital information on objects, bodies, places, making it accessible and interactive, using smartphones, sensors, digital devices, ubiquitous networks.

In designing for the information ecosystem, we must confront with three fundamental issues:

  • information architecture
  • information representation
  • information visualization

Information Architecture allows us to express a model or concept of information used in activities that require explicit details of complex systems. [13] [14]

Through Information Architecture we interpret information and make distinctions between signs and systems of signs.

This requires the classification of information into a coherent structure, preferably one that the intended audience can understand quickly, if not inherently, and then easily retrieve the information for which they are searching. [15]

Information Representation requires us to conceive the metaphors through which it is possible to communicate information. This activity finds its origins in the ways in which information is represented in different cultures, and requires the understanding of the targets of the information, the cultural backgrounds and the goals to which we wish to make information accessible, understandable and significant.

Multiple techniques and approaches are possible for this activity, and they all require to gain understanding of the mental models of the targets of information, as originated from culture, history, interests and personal approaches [16] [17] [18] .

Information Visualization proceeds from there, designing the ways in which information is visualized and experienced, taking into account aesthetics, accessibility, usability, complexity, and the multiple ways and purposes according to which information can be used, including the optimization of its visualization according to the device or other fruition technology through which information is experienced (from small devices, to smartphones, computers, urban screens or media facades which occupy entire architectural spaces), and its narratives, purposes, aesthetics and symbologies [19-26].

Communication and Interaction Space is the place in which all the action takes place.

We can describe any part of the world that surrounds us as a space for communication and interaction. We communicate through the ways we speak, dress, look, touch, and event through the things which we avoid doing, saying, wearing and touching. Our gestures, expressions, body positions communicate.

Communication is the activity of conveying information.

From Wikipedia:

“Communication must be between two persons, parties or sides etc. Communication has been derived from the Latin word “communis”, meaning to share. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender’s intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender. Feedback is critical to effective communication between parties.”

Communication can be seen as processes of information transmission governed by three levels of semiotic rules:

  1. Syntactic (formal properties of signs and symbols),
  2. Pragmatic (concerned with the relations between signs/expressions and their users) and
  3. Semantic (study of relationships between signs and symbols and what they represent).

Therefore, communication is social interaction where at least two interacting agents share a common set of signs and a common set of semiotic rules

A constructivist interpretation of this process exposes how the parties involved in communication are actually interrelated, and the ways in which they express information, thus performing the act of communicating, is to be considered as transformative of the way in which the information will be received and understood.

A few elements emerged in describing communication processes, which can be used in designing our communication spaces:

  • shared “space”
  • message
  • the syntactical context
  • the pragmatical context
  • the semantic context
  • interrelation
  • feedback
  • interaction

All these elements should be taken in consideration  when designing communication experiences:

  • the “space” in which communication takes place, in its material or immaterial connotation, which must be accessible and usable by all parties involved
  • the “message” or, more in general, the type of “object” that gets communicated,  which must be recognizable and interpretable
  • the “syntax” of communication, the grammar according to which information is expressed, which has to be constructed according to a set of rules which allow for its analysis and structural comprehension
  • the pragmatical aspects of the communication, through which we should ensure that what is communicated is relevant for the activities, goals, desires and visions of the targets of our communication
  • the semantic aspects of the communication, ensuring it expresses recognizable meaning and information for the cultures and backgrounds which we want to refer to
  • the structure our environment in ways which allow to receive the feedback coming from the actors of the communication, to be able to welcome them and to use them to generate a dynamic environment which adapts to the mutating conditions
  • directly originating from the previous point is the idea of interrelation, according to which all actors and processes involved are constantly and mutually transformed by the process of communication

The definition of Interaction is closely related to the ones described above, and it involves  interconnection, information, communication.

In fact, Interaction is a concept which is more general than the one to which we think about when we analyze “interactive systems” like websites, videogames, mobile applications. The concept of Interaction exists in multiple domains, like physics, chemistry, social sciences, and more.

Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as opposed to a one-way causal effect.

As a general rule, it is possible to define the term “interaction” in more than one way, according to scopes, areas of interest, disciplines and sciences. Yet the main idea comes out from all of them: two elements (individuals, devices, games, chemical compounds, software components…) exchange some sort of signal/stimulation (a click of a mouse, an electron, a bit of data, a signal…) and, thus, interrelate for a defined amount of time, altering their condition in some way, possibly producing some perceivable effect (information, change in interface, different molecule forms, a device activates, something appears on a screen, a sound….).

It is clear how Interaction is, in this definition, a form of communication.

And just in the way in which our spaces/processes – physical, digital, hybrid, localized or ubiquitous that they be – are filled with multiple flows of communication which, according to our perception, describe “what is going on” in that space/process, the same can be said about interaction.

Interaction Design is “the practice of designing interactive digital products, environments, systems, and services”, and it has a specific focus on the understanding of behavior (of people, things, processes) and on the satisfaction of the desires, expectations and conditions for well-being of the people using the products, environments, systems and services which are the object of design.

A common reference for describing Interaction Design are Bill Verplank’s drawings:


He defines Interaction Design as a question a series of “How to..” questions:

  • How do you do? What sort of ways do you affect the world: poke it, manipulate it, sit on it?
  • How do you feel? What do you sense of the world and what are the sensory qualities that shape media?
  • How do you know? What are the ways that you learn and plan (or perhapse, how we want you to think)?

This definition has been rightfully considered a foundation for the disciplines which relate to Interaction, but we can imagine how to expand it by taking into account the contemporary transformation of human beings and of the ways in which we interact with others and with systems. This article [link], for example, starts from Verplank’s drawings to include the ways in which our knowledge has become more social, the novel ways in which we desire to share our emotions and expressions with other people, the innovative ways in which we can and desire to know the effects of our actions across time and space, and the fact according to which our interactions are not isolated in space/time, but form an ecosystem in which knowledge, information and human interrelation play crucial roles.

So we go from this:

to this:


In THIS ARTICLE [link] some other fundamental theories are investigated, to describe the design of experiences in a bit of more detail.

The incipit is obtained by observing this image by Nathan Shedroff:

In the image, the interactions among the three main areas of Information Interaction Design – Information Design, Interaction Design and Sensorial Design –, and the ways in which all these contribute in forming Experience Design.

This form of analysis is truly helpful in understanding the methodologies according to which design processes are conducted, leading to the methodological understanding of the quality of the designed experiences, services and products. [27-33]

All the issues analyzed in this lesson form a basis according to which we will analyze Interactions and Interaction Ecosystems in the next lesson.


[1] Barlow, H. B., Mollon, J. D. (1982). The Senses. CUP Archive.

[2] Bermùdez, J. L. (1998). The Body and the self. MIT Press.

[3] Knoblich, G. (2006). Human body perception from the inside out. Oxford University Press.

[4] Eilan, N., McCarthy, R. A., Brewer, B. (1993). Spatial representation: problems in philosophy and psychology. Oxford University Press.

[5] Brewer, B. (2002). Perception and Reason. Oxford University Press.

[6] Gendler, T., Hawthorne, J. P. (2006). Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press.

[7] Dretske, F. I. (1969). Seeing and knowing. University of Chicago Press.

[8] Wagner, M. (2006). The geometries of visual space. Routledge.

[9] Bermùdez, J. L. (2000). The paradox of self-consciousness. MIT Press.

[10] Cohen, E. (1999). Information and Beyond. Informing Science.

[11]  de Kerckhove, D. (1997). The skin of culture: investigating the new electronic reality.

[12] de Kerckhove, D. (2001). The architecture of intelligence. Birkhauser.

[13] Taylor, A. G. (2004). The organization of information. Libraries unlimited.

[14] Rowley, J. E., Hartley, R. J. (2008). Organizing Knowledge. Ashgate Publishing.

[15] Tidwell, J. (2010). Designing Interfaces. O’Reilly Media.

[16] Kolko, J. (2009). Thoughts on Interaction Design. Morgan Kaufmann.

[17] Saffer, D. (2009). Designing for interaction. New Riders.

[18] Norman, D. A. (2002). The design of everyday things. Basic Books.

[19]  Tufte, E. (1990). Envisioning Information. Graphics Press.

[20] Tufte, E. (1997). Visual Explanations. Graphics Press.

[21] Tufte, E. (2006). Beautiful evidence. Graphics Press.

[22] Mijksenaar, P. (1997). Visual Function: an introduction to information design. 010 Publishers.

[23] Mijksenaar, P., Westendorp, P. (1999). Open here: the art of instructional design. Joost Elffers Books.

[24] Jacobson, R. (2000). Information design. MIT Press.

[25] Baer, K., Vacarra, J. (2010). Information Design Workbook. Rockport Publishers.

[26] Ware, C. (2004). Information Visualization: perception for design. Morgan Kaufmann.

[27] Shedroff, N. (1994). Information Interaction Design: A unified field theory of design. Retrieved November 2003 from

[28] Shedroff, N. (2001). Experience Design, New Riders Publishing; 1st edition. Retrieved September 2004 from

[29] Forlizzi, 2004, Towards a Framework of Interaction and Experience as It Relates to the Design of Products and Systems. Retrieved October 2004, from

[30] Alben, L. (1996) Quality of Experience: Defining the Criteria for Effective Interaction Design, interactions 3.3 May+June 1996, p11.

[31] Dewey, J. (reprint 1963) Experience and Education, New York: Macmillian.

[32] Forlizzi, J. (1997) Design for Experience: An Approach to Human-Centered Design, Master’s Thesis, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University.

[33] Pine and Gilmore (1998) Welcome to the Experience Economy, Harvard Business Review.

Enlarge Your Consciousness at JustMad, ARCO Madrid, on El Paìs


A wonderful article has appeared on the blog of El Paìs describing the Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free project.

Identities on sale: this is the main theme of the article, as suggested by the action through which we are trying to support the discussion on the new forms of privacy and publicness which are promoted by social network and, on a wider scope, by the whole of digitally interconnected humanity.

The sale of internet users profiles, which become your personal human tamagotchi, describes this situation.

Enlarge Your Consciousness is currently exhibited at JustMad, part of the ARCO Madrid art fair, with BTF Gallery, our companions in this project.

more info on the project:

Enlarge Your Consciousness at JustMad

Enlarge Your Consciousness at JustMad

Updates on Enlarge Your Consciousness In 4 Days 4 Free

Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free

Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free

Here are some updates to the project Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free

Here is the event on the website of BTF Gallery

Here on Artribune

Here is the official announcement on ArteFiera OFF

Here is a wonderful article on D’Ars Magazine

And on this issue of Espoarte you can find an article about the project


Here is a slideshow of the backstage, preparing the exhibit:



and here’s a slideshow about the exhibit:




More information and materials about the work are coming up in the next few days.

Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free

“the most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.” Andy Warhol

EYCI4D4F Diagram 1

EYCI4D4F Diagram 1


In this essay, we describe the ideas which led us to participate to the “Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free” project, together with Mezzapelle-Deriu.

The mutation of the human being in contemporary times is characterized by drastic speed and by powerful, ubiquitous effects, which are transforming not only ourselves, but also the form and function of the whole planet, including the ways in which we learn, communicate, relate, work, think. And the ways in which we experience emotions.

Art is Open Source has often dealt with the theories and practices of human emotion.

Emotions are not “action”, yet they are the energy that creates action. They are the tool/effect through which we experience the world and with which we decide to take action, and in which direction.

And emotions have profoundly changed in the last decade or so, due to our renewed experience of the world, our re-built perception of space and time, our re-created ways of establishing presence, identity, relations, collaborations. Due to the digital membrane which has been covering all our planet and which is now becoming indistinguishable from the rest of the planet itself.

Multiple types of discussion can be started up while engaging these issues: from the most futuristic ones to the most critical. Incredible positive scenarios perfectly match horrible ones.

In this never-ending struggle between adoption and critique, we choose the way of Nature. The way of Nature, in the sense that it is useless and impossible for us human beings to “decide” what is natural, what is unnatural, what is good and what is bad. What we can do, as free human beings, is to observe the constant, fluid, continuous mutation which we experience, and adopt ethical approaches in making our own decisions.

Human beings, the planet and Nature, change, mutate. This mutation includes all the technologies, networks, dangers and opportunities which we’re currently facing. We can observe, try to gain the best possible understanding of things (from our point of view, determined by personal history, cultural background… ), share knowledge, information and perspectives with people, and act.

Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free is about this.

A project through which we reflect on the mutation of human emotions.


The web is increasingly relied upon as a reflection of reality (Bray et al, 2007).

This fact gives rise to great challenges for human beings, who are in a state of great transformation of the ways in which they perceive their identity, privacy, relationships, societies, cities, and in which they perceive their presence and role in the planet.

Every action we perform in our daily lives has measurable effects in terms of digital information: wether we turn the lights on in our living room, buy an apple at the supermarket, use our mobile phone to contact our friends to decide to go to see a movie and, in possibly more explicit ways, whenever we study, work and entertain ourselves using one of the multiple internet-aware processes which have started to be progressively more present in our common routine.

It is possible to recognize the fact that a digital information membrane has covered the totality of our world (Pickles, 2004, Mitchell 2005, Zook & Graham 2007), mutating our perception of the spaces, times and modalities in which we conduct our lives.

It is possible to describe the emergence of novel forms of sensoriality through which we experience the world, deeply connected to digital interactions, technologies and networks, or even externalized onto digital devices. (McLuhan, 1964; de Kerckhove, 1997).

Simple experiments allow to gain awareness of this: a simple mobile phone call will force us to move through space in the case of absent network coverage, just as an additional sense outside of the conventional boundaries of our bodies and externalized onto the mobile phone which makes us aware of electromagnetic fields of specific ranges of frequency.

Just like our brains have shown to be able to mutate, to adapt to drastic effects due to impairment or damage (Doidge, 2007), we are experiencing deep changes due to this re-structuring of reality, to integrate the digital layers of the world into our common perception.

This process has already taken place to a certain degree, as we completely give for granted a series of manifestations of this part of our neo-reality in the tasks which we face each day.

Younger generations show distinct transformations in the ways in which they learn, focus, relate, collaborate, work (Turkle, 1995), and in the ways n which they perceive their own identity, privacy, and the definitions of public and private spaces (as in West, Lewis and Currie, 2009; Pearson, 2009; Thompson, 2011; among many others).

The continuous processes through which we simultaneously construct and experience our reality (de Certeau, 1984) see specific effects from these mutations, as our perception digitally changes, and our ways of constructing/interacting with the world progressively adopt digital tools and have digital characteristics.

For example, the idea of recognizing the urban environments described by Lynch in 1960 updates to the concept of Digiplace expressed by Zook and Graham in 2007.

In this, emotions play a crucial role.

In Myer’s definition (2004) emotion involves “physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience”. It is the way in which we relate to the world and the processes which take place in it: it is not action, but the thrust which creates it.

This centrality of emotions has led multiple scholars and practitioners to place the study of emotion at focal points in multiple disciplines, across Neurobiology, Social Sciences, Cognitive Sciences, Psychology, Computer Science, Robotics, Ethnography, Economy, Design, Architecture.

Theory of emotions is crucial in the analysis of organizational processes, design and multiple areas of communication.

Classical researches on the Theory of Emotions have produced multiple approaches and classifications, such as the ones found in Descartes (353, 1989 edition), Spinoza (1656, 2006 edition), Hobbes (1651, 1976 edition), Plutchik (1980), Elkman (1999) and Prinz (2004), describing evolutionary, social, psychological, dimensional and other types of models with reference to the general nature of human beings or to the specifics of different cultures around the planet.

EYCI4D4F Diagram 3

EYCI4D4F Diagram 3

Emotions are understood to be the turning point according to which we identify, use and create information.

“The central focus of a unified theory of information behavior is the process by which users adapt to the information environment and make use of it for personal and social purposes. By making this adaptation process explicit, the model reveals how the ubiquitous information environment can be viewed as an affective information environment because all information needs, seeking, reception, and use is processed through emotions.” Diane Nahl, Danila Bilal (2007)

Therefore, emotions are placed at the center of strategies and design processes, as both tools and measures of experience.

Our mutated perception of the world through technologies and networks has changed or emotional approaches, as well: the fact that we experience the world and that we enact our actions using digital tools (or, more in general, using modalities which have clearly identifiable digital characteristics, either directly or indirectly), also shifts our emotional domains online.

Designers have incorporated the affective dimensions of technology to the extent that the expression “emotional design” has become identified in ergonomics as “Kansei Engineering” or “pleasurable engineering” (Green & Jordan, 2002; Grimsaeth, 2005; Jordan, 2000).

According to Don Norman, “the focus of emotional design is to make our lives more pleasurable” (Van Hout, 2004).

Yet the experience in the merged analog-digital reality which emerges from the observation of the contemporary world is profoundly different than the precedent one.

“When reading fiction or watching a movie we enter the imaginary world even if we remain aware of its imaginary nature. We suspend disbelief and though, on one level, we accept the fictional reality of the characters, on another we recognize that the situation is make-believe. In cyberspace this recognition is often absent.” Aharon Ben-Ze’ev, 2004.

This comment from Ben-Ze’ev describes in synthesis the different directions according to which the observation of human experience can move along.

In the observation of emotions, it is possible to observe how a constructivist approach is used in experience by human beings.

Identity, public/private spaces, privacy, are all the object of personal creation, thanks to the characteristics of the media and tools which take part to the process.

The possibility of freely creating digital content and to attach it to objects and spaces, transforms the world into a public, accessible, free read/write platform (Iaconesi, Persico, 2011).

This modality progressively takes onto our daily lives.

As Turkle (1995) tells us, the users who are “logged on to one MUD or another for at least forty hours a week. It seems misleading to call what [they do] there playing. [they spend their] time constructing a life that is more expansive than the one [they live] in physical reality.”


Enlarge Your Consciousness

Enlarge Your Consciousness in 4 Days 4 Free grabs emotions in real-time from social networks and uses them to gain better understanding of the way human beings have transformed  by using digital technologies and networks.

A real-time process has been designed to extract real-time public information from multiple social networks. Specifically, the following social networks are used:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • FourSquare

Each social network requires specific modalities to be able to read information from it.

For example Twitter allows usage of public APIs of multiple types to query its real-time systems and access information that can be freely used in applications and mash-ups, as long as a series of requirements are met (including correct mentioning of sources, presentation details, the enforcement of restrictions to the types of allowed practices to be performed using the data, etc. ). Using these APIs it is possible to capture, in real-time, the content produced by users relative to specific keywords, timeframes, geographical locations, hashtags etc. .

Foursquare offers a similar mechanism, allowing developers to access real-time data using public APIs. Using these techniques it is possible to extract real-time information about the places people visit (check-ins), the information they value or suggest (tips) and other information which can be easily inferred by analyzing data (for example, great deals  of information can be understood by analyzing the times and time-patterns according to which people access different locations, characterising them as work-places, entertainment venues, commercial places etc).

Flickr also offers extensive support to developers, allowing them to access a variety of APIs which permit multiple types of real-time searches and the creation of wonderful meta-services.

Facebook is the most difficult social network from which to harvest information without breaking any law :) 

While it offers multiple forms of integration to other applications (e.g.: the possibility for users to connect their social network presence to online applications, thus obtaining a variety of different results) Facebook seems to be oriented in ways according to which all possibility to systematically observe societies and communities remain its sole possibility.

Luckily, this enforcement is not too strict, and, together with our lawyers and with the support of the international developer community (including some people at Facebook itself, who have been proved to be very helpful in this, even at our explicit statement that “we are trying to produce a system which lawfully extracts information about the emotions of online users, for non-commercial goals, in respect to your terms of service, and with the sole objective of producing tools for art and scientific research”).

It turns out that by using a combination of the functions offered by the Graph API and with a careful dosage of tuning, it is possible to capture, anonymize and process information from Facebook, in ways which have been proved very useful for our research.

Several automatic processes have been setup to capture information from the aforementioned social networks using these techniques.

The texts, comments, tips, image/video captions published by online users were anonymized and processed using Natural Language Analysis.

Multiple techniques have been developed and documented to analyze textual information to be able to extract from it valuable information.

It is now common practice to process texts to extract information regarding the emotions and issues engaged by user contributions to online discussions, even sometimes being able to identify the places which are being discussed, even when explicit geographical coordinates are not provided in the payload of the messages by using GPS or Assisted GPS technologies.

In EYCI4D4F we decided to avoid using keywords-based analysis, as it often leads to multiple problems:

  • words are often used in multiple ways, which cause erroneous interpretation
  • words are invented all the time, even by simply using creative spelling for them
  • human beings are really creative, and tend to express emotions in multiple ways
  • the same words in two different cultures can represent entirely different meanings

Information is processed using Natural Language Analysis by applying techniques which have been inferred by existing highly effective techniques, such as the ones described in the researches of Gentile/Lanfranchi/others, Leidner/Lieberman, Quin/Xiao/others, Shi/Baker mentioned in the references at the bottom of this article.

The processing techniques were prepared using a set of linguistic templates (similar to regular expressions) created in 29 languages to identify syntactical/structural text patterns which would highlight the user expressing an emotional condition.

This approach led us to being able to systematically filter out with a high level of success (around 93%) messages expressing emotions.

Using a large vocabulary (this, too, in 29 languages, including around 25000 elements) of words which are related to the specific emotions, we have in this way been able to classify 16 base emotions according to Robert Plutchik’s classification. In the obtained classification each message was associated to a weighting parameter according to which a certain emotion was expressed. Each message could be associated to more than one emotion (in accordance with Plutchik’s classification which sees complex emotions being represented as linear combinations of base ones).

The results, thus, looked like:

[user XYZ][message KWX][JOY:n1; SURPRISE: n2…]

In this structure:

  • XYZ is an anonymized version of the user identification strings used on social networks
  • KWX is a reference number of the content, to be able to identify user activity and relational activity
  • n1, n2… are numbers from 1 to 1000 describing the intensity according to which the single emotion has been identified in the message

This information was continuously captured from social networks.

A series of services was designed to that they could be periodically queried (polling) to get constant updated on the most recent emotions that were captured from social networks.

These services were used to pilot a series of information visualizations and a physical installation.

A first visualization was the one shown in the video below:


Here, messages are shown at the top of the screen, together with the color blocks representing the emotions which were found in the message.

As soon as a new message is captures, it is added to the central visualization, and connected through color-coded curves to the blocks representing the single base emotions. If the message expresses complex emotions, more than one connection is made.

At the bottom, a bar graph shows the recent intensities of the base emotions. The values of the bar graph are used in an additive sound synthesis process to generate the everchanging sounds which could be heard at the exhibit at BTF Gallery in Bologna for the presentation of the project.

Here below is a sample of a few minutes of the generated sounds:

EYCI4D4F generative sounds

another visualization can be seen in the following video:


Here each block represents a single emotion, as captured in real-time from social networks. In the visualization each block was very small, and it gave a sense of the enormous amount of data which was being captured.

Another visualization allowed to understand the sequences of emotions which were expressed by users:

EYCI4D4F diagram 4

EYCI4D4F diagram 4

Here three levels showed how one emotion evolved into another for multiple used in the most recent few minutes, effectively showing the trends of complex emotions expressed by individuals.

A further visualization showed the geographical distributions of emotions around the world:

EYCI4D4F diagram 2

EYCI4D4F diagram 2


The information about the most recent emotions received from the harvesting system was transformed into signals which powered the motion of the installation.

In the installation 16 jellies were created and associated to two intensity levels of the 8 base emotions in Plutchik’s classification.

EYCI4D4F installation

EYCI4D4F installation

Each jelly was installed onto a silicon base and a step motor was connected to its bottom , so that it would receive a mechanical stimulation from it.

Whenever an emotion was sensed, a signal was sent to the respective motor, thus causing the vibration of the jelly.

A video projector mounted on the ceiling of the exhibition space projected onto the jelly the profile image of the user who generated the emotion.

EYCI4D4F installation

EYCI4D4F installation

The result was a matrix showing in real-time the expression of emotions on social networks, through a suggestive, poetic physical visualization, also alluding to the variability and instability of human emotions through the typology of the motion of jellies.



One aspect of this project was considered striking from everyone involved: it seemed incredible how substantially easy it had been to capture and process all this information from unaware internet users.

The captured information was public, to all effect. Yet the messages publicly expressed on social networks engage important themes, and describe to a high level of detail the approaches which each user adopts in confronting to news, relationships and multiple subjects, also describing the users’ tastes, likes, dislikes, wishes, desires and, as we have learned, emotions.

This “public intimacy” represents a fundamental issue for research and discussion of the contemporary era, also because it represents the main driver of online service providers’ business models: the possibility to harvest, process, classify and sell this information in multiple ways still represents the biggest money-making methodology which is available to anyone deciding to create a business using technologies and networks.

The modalities according to which this information is captured is also remarkable.

Internet users continuously sign complicated “Terms of Service” agreements when they access online services: these texts are complex and long, and people read them only rarely and understand them even less.

While there is a general understanding about the fact that the information produced through our behavior is the object of business of service providers, this notion substantially gets lost during what is perceived to be a public, open, transparent set of platforms, in which people perform common routine activity without worrying too much about what implication their actions could have.

To remark these issues, we decided to add a final part to the project.

EYCI4D4F users for sale at 9.99 euros

EYCI4D4F users for sale at 9.99 euros

A set of boxes was designed to contain the profile of a single, random social network user. 100 hundred boxes of this type were produced, randomly selecting users whose emotions came up while processing data for the visualizations and installation.

Each box contained a link and a QRCode. They led to an address at which a small interface showed the profile image of the user (but without showing any other data which could be used to identify him/her/it) together with the list of the most recent emotions expressed on social networks.

The user was transformed into a sort of social-network-mediated-tamagotchi.

We put the boxes on sale for 9.99 euros.

EYCI4D4F users on sale

EYCI4D4F users on sale


Users on sale for 9.99 euros. Business as usual. 




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