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Mood Tracking and the Emotional Politics of Interfaces

Sat, September 2, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton Boston, Floor: 3, Exeter

Abstract

Mood tracking applications for smart phones and other mobile devices are the latest in a genealogy of techniques and technologies for managing human emotions that extends from the late nineteenth century through to the present day. This paper explores how two popular mood-tracking applications, Moodscope and MoodPanda, incorporate insights from both clinical psychology and user experience (UX) design best practices into their respective interface designs. Grounding its analysis in critical computing methods such as Values in Design (VID), critical design, and reflective design, the paper argues that the particular interface design choices of these two applications serve to influence their respective dynamics of sociality, self-fashioning, and connections to institutional control.

More broadly, the design of these applications signals a broader shift in sociotechnical definitions and discourses regarding the feeling individual. These shifts have produced a new “emotive politics of interfaces” at work both acutely in these applications and more broadly across contemporary digital media. The every-day, felt practices and interactions afforded by the mood-tracking interface produce different strains of emotional politics based on the particulars of design, use context, and the broader political economy of each application. Extrapolated from individual mood-tracking systems to major social network platforms such as Facebook, the power of the emotive politics of interfaces deserves scrutiny as part of a broader social and political analysis of mediated networked publics.

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