Below, Kalev H. Leetaru, a data scientist and the past 2013-2014 Yahoo Fellow at Georgetown University, writes about reimagining news as emotion using the Internet Archives, which Knight Foundation supports.
Figure 1 - Intensity of the emotion “anxiety” in American television news over the last four years
The world’s news media isn’t merely a clinical chronology of global events: It is a lens onto the dreams and fears of our global world. As journalists report on events from the mundane to the extraordinary, they do so through the lens of their own experiences, beliefs and views. Each unfolding detail is contextualized through the stories of those participating and affected. Coverage of a labor protest goes beyond the impersonal who, when and where, to the what and why, capturing the rich tapestry of emotional undercurrents that define human life.
What if we could quantitatively measure and visualize the emotion of the world’s news? Identifying areas where reporting on a disease outbreak devolves from concern to panic or where a previously downtrodden region suddenly finds a euphoric new vision for the future? Creating a global “happiness” ranking of the world’s cities and identifying the topics that appear in the most positive and most negative light in every corner of the globe? In short, what if we could reimagine the news not as a simple conveyer of facts, but as a coarse reflection onto the emotions, the dreams and fears, of global society? Last week we released a dataset that does just that. Here’s how we got there.