This project is part of the Picturing the Social research.
Since 2012, ‘The World Happiness Report’ has been tracking and reporting on overall social well-being of different societies, combining a series of indicators including real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity. The study is based on data from the Gallup World Poll, the World Health Organisation, and the World Development Indicators. Today the availability of social media data on a global scale has the potential to add a lot to an already compelling story. Specifically this project wants to look at understanding happiness through the pictures posted on Instagram and tagged with #happy to provide a window into people’s lives and complement the insights we can already gain from a global survey, or a series of statistical indexes.
What does happiness look like? What is the global visual landscape of happiness? What are people happy about across various countries? What do happy people look like in different countries? What methods are more effective to analyse this body of images both qualitatively and quantitatively? What variables can we use to categorise and explore happiness visually? What interfaces can we design to help navigate visual data and test hypotheses? And how do we consider ethics and privacy issues in these contexts? Are we adding any valuable information to what statistical and proven methods of analysis have been delivering so far? Ultimately, what’s the added value of analysing images in social media?
What makes social data interesting as a source is that it’s bottom up, voluntary, proactive vs prompted and passively collected so it could show a different or complementary side to the story, provided that the issues of representativity, lack of demographics, intermittent location data and, last but not least, the challenges of mining images granularly are addressed successfully. Good luck to us!