We talk a lot, especially those of us who are parents, about how kids use technology these days. So fascinated are we with their ability to intuitively understand the digital environment and feel immediately comfortable in it. To kids, there is no online and offline. It's just one world.
|Convent nun using WeFeelFine.org|
Anyone who has seen 21 Jump Street can attest to that.
My guess is that we are just a few years away from seeing a new digital environment, one that seriously takes emotions into account. We just need to wait for our children to build it.
It’s interesting to think about the technological landscape they will live in as adults. And I don't mean the ability for their refrigerators to automatically order milk when it expires. I’m interested more in the ability for them to connect emotionally and experience technology in a sensory way.
Over the past ten years, we’ve seen more and more digital experiences that are emotionally driven. With these experiences, emotions, senses and mood are not just pieces of data, but textures that add dimension and allow us to connect on a much deeper level.
WeFeelFine.org is a fascinating experiment in not only gathering emotions, but feeding it back in ways that benefit society, if only by making us more aware and connected. My favorite example is from a convent in England where emotional feedback is used by nuns as a prayer tool. I think Marshall McLuhan would approve.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to work on a project for Signature Theatre in New York City. The intent of the theater itself, and of the physical space it resided in (designed by Frank Gehry), was to create collisions among theatre goers. The experience I helped create consisted in part of a 72-inch touchscreen that allowed patrons to input their feelings around a specific topic, thereby creating a reflection of the community’s thoughts.
But while there are numerous examples of emotional and sensory experience in the digital space, anything beyond emoticons still seems to be considered experimental.
My prediction, or hope, however, is that this will change. And I believe it will change because, while adults are figuring out how to bring emotion into the digital space, our children are more emotionally aware than ever.
That's because the social emotional learning movement, originally founded in the 1960s and eventually becoming mainstream in the mid 1990s has started to make a meaningful difference in how we interact. In just a generation or two, it's made it ok to care--and not ok to be the bully.
So if our kids are learning about their emotions today, and are comfortable with a new level of expression and sharing, when, I wonder, will our new-found awareness intersect with technology in meaningful, relevant and mainstream ways?