Divine a nation's mood from its blogs? Danforth '01 explains how

Chris Danforth ’01, a University of Vermont mathematician who has devised a system for assessing widespread happiness from blogs, explains his work at Bates College at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, in Pettengill Hall’s Keck Classroom (G52), 4 Andrews Road (Alumni Walk). (Please note that the time for this event has been changed since it was first announced.)

Danforth’s talk, titled The Hedonometer: A Remote Sensor of Global Happiness, is open to the public at no cost. It is sponsored by the departments of mathematics, psychology and economics, and the Division of Social Sciences.

Danforth, an assistant professor in the UVM department of mathematics and statistics, and department colleague Peter Dodds have created a system for measuring the national mood by compiling expressions of happiness or displeasure collected from Web texts.

According to this research, Election Day 2008 was the happiest day for Americans in the past four years. The day Michael Jackson died was the unhappiest.

Danforth and Dodds began their work at the Web site www.wefeelfine.org, which searches more than two million blogs for sentences beginning with “I feel” or “I am feeling.” They then applied to their search results a standard psychological methodology for associating particular words with degrees of happiness.

They argue that blogs are an adequate indicator of happiness among the overall U.S. population because they are written from all over the country and bloggers are racially diverse and almost evenly split between genders. (More recently, the pair have applied their methodology to Twitter updates and song lyrics.) They hope their insight into how the population feels will improve public policymaking and the understanding of social phenomena.

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