Talking to CBC Spark About Emotion and Technology

British Deputy PM Nick Clegg looking algorithmically sad. Image: Dan Williams.

British Deputy PM Nick Clegg looking algorithmically sad. Image: Dan Williams.

Last week's edition of Spark, the technology and culture radio show and podcast of Canadian broadcaster CBC, featured a segment on the "Internet of Emotions," where I was a guest. Spurred by my Thingscon talk in Amsterdam last November, in my chat with host Nora Young (play below), I talked about what I find interesting about the use of personal technology to monitor and "interpret" our emotional state, the feasibility and desirability of doing so. We discussed the role of ethics, the slipperiness of "feelings" in a digital construct, and under what conditions monitoring emotions through something like a smartphone or home listening device could be useful, or problematic.

The segment can be found here, and the specific clip is here for listening

This isn't an academic discussion. Businesses are chafing to apply sentiment-reading technology as a means of "knowing" their customers more intimately—computational empathy, if you will. Hospitals and insurers are curious not only about your emotional state during treatment, but even if you've sounded stressed just trying to get an appointment to see a doctor. Your bank might want to check how you feel while applying for a credit card, or a soda company send you a treat to "cheer you up". Backing what sounds like futuristic technology into the current arms race around data analytics, already happening, leads us into "emotional credit score" territory quite quickly, for example. Or Amazon offering you product "purchased by people who feel like you do now". 

We're only scratching the surface of this topic, and I plan to stay with it. Your views and feedback, as always, are welcome. Tell us how you feel.  

Scott SmithComment