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Facebook 'Mood Manipulator' Puts Your Newsfeed Back In Your Own Hands

With "Mood Manipulator," artist Lauren McCarthy asks, "Why should mega-corporations get to have all the fun?"
July 23, 2014, 5:00pm

In the wake of recent revelations that Facebook subjected hundreds of thousands of users to a mood-manipulation study, many have decried the social media mega-giant's practice of selectively displaying news feed stories in order to probe resultant behaviors and emotional responses in unwitting test subjects. While some, including new media artist Nick Briz, have taken this seeming breach of emotional privacy and removed themselves from the site altogether, artist Lauren McCarthy (who previously crowdsourced her OKCupid dates and "brought life" to a Twitter stream) has co-opted Facebook's market research tactic and crafted a browser extension designed for self-exploration.

With Mood Manipulator, Facebook users can swipe a set of of dials in order to filter (or un-filter, in the event that Facebook's study is ongoing) the content of their news feeds, based around the criteria of "Positive," "Emotional," "Aggressive," or "Open," status updates and posts. Need a healthy dose of optimism? Swipe your Positive and Open sliders to "more," and Emotional and Aggressive to "less." Want to get riled up before an internet comment war? Up your Emotional and Aggressive posts, and down with the Open and Positive stuff.

Explains McCarthy, "[Mood Manipulator] is based on Facebook's research into massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. The linguistic analysis is done with Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC), the same system used in the Facebook study." The artist asks, "Yes, we are all freaked about the ethics of the Facebook study. And then what? What implications does this finding have for what we might do with our technologies? What would you do with an interface to your emotions?" With the free Mood Manipulator browser extension, McCarthy aims to put the power to control your own emotions back into the hands of the people. Because why should only mega-corporations get to have all the fun?

To try Mood Manipulator out for yourself, visit Lauren McCarthy's website. And to abandon the social network "for real this time," check out Nick Briz's comprehensive, easy-to-follow, code-based guide to leaving Facebook for good. h/t Core77

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