There is a massive tubular balloon structure floating over a green space near the Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza right now, and it can tell you whether residents hanging out nearby are happy or sad. The structure is an art project called MIMMI, and it reads the mood of Minneapolis using Twitter.
And this isn’t some bizzaro necromancy tool – the art project uses a textual analysis technology to look at tweets and determine whether they’re positive or negative. The color of the structure changes based on how many people are feeling good and how many are sad or angry standing below it.
The art project looks like a giant new age-y mood ring, but it has a high-tech set-up. Once the analysis software determines whether tweets are positive or negative, it categorizes them and relays the message to a series of WiFi enabled lightbulbs inside the balloon, as well as an automated system that emits mist. If people are happy, the balloon will change to warm colors and emit the mist – so standing underneath it is a great way to cool down during hot Midwestern days. If the general mood is negative, the balloon glows with cooler colors and mist doesn’t come out.
With the ubiquity of computers and digital technology, our social customs for how we interact with each other are changing quickly.”
MIMMI is the work of two design groups, INIVIA and Urbain DRC. One of the creators, Urbain DRC co-founder and INIVIA designer Carl Koepcke, explains how MIMMI figures out the mood of Minneapolis. “The mood is determined from all of the Tweets coming from within 15 miles of downtown Minneapolis. Our custom program then parses the words and runs it against an open source database of emotional words that was compiled by sociologists and anthropology researchers,” he says.
The MIMMI website offers a breakdown of which words on Twitter turn the balloon to warm colors and which ones turn it to cooler hues. The variations in color that pop up reflect how the collective mood is generally neither all-happy or all-sad. “Within each category there is a subtle randomization of the hues that not only gives them more variability but also is suggestive of the inherent ambiguity and tones that words carry in different situations.”
“There’s limitless possibilities for how to analyze and represent the Twitter information based on the text; however, we sought to curate the data as little as possible so that it represented a fully democratic forum. The idea is that since so many people are watching and commenting on whether the Minnesota’s sports teams win or lose, the text analysis will represent a proportionally larger segment of the total tweets going on around the metropolitan area.”
But the creators did make some tweaks to showcase the moods of people directly interacting with the balloon. “The one type of tweet we do accentuate are one coming from people directly interacting with MIMMI using #MIMMI. When someone Tweets directly to MIMMI the entire sculpture changes to respond directly to the person interacting with her, lighting up in a single color representative of the mood of the tweet,” Koepcke says.
The creators chose this project because they see it as an “emotional gateway” to the residents of Minneapolis. “With the ubiquity of computers and digital technology, our social customs for how we interact with each other are changing quickly, and we wanted to take advantage of the benefits and insights provided by such technology, but also reinforce the importance of physically being together. MIMMI allows us to see Minneapolis in a new, data-intense way, but also in a manner that encourages everyone to come to the plaza and interact with MIMMI physically as well.”
Even though it was chosen for display because of its ability to draw Minneapolis residents to an underutilized public space, Minneapolis wants everyone to enjoy MIMMI; they set up a live feed, so you can check out the art installation no matter where you are.
And although there aren’t any plans for MIMMI to hit the road, the creators are intrigued by the idea. “We actually were thinking of having MIMMI go on a ‘Good Mood Tour’ as an ambassador of sorts when we started work on her last January. We have had a couple people asking about whether it would be possible to install it in another location but have no plans to reinstall it anywhere else as of yet. We are definitely interested in that idea however, and specifically designed the project to not only be sustainable but also ephemeral. After the installation comes down we are going to convert the fabric into ponchos for people to purchase as a way to recycle and remember the installation.”