Emote your vote

Colin Pye | 03 April 2014

Our thoughts and feelings drive our decisions, from the smallest ones, like what to watch on TV, to bigger ones like who to vote for.

"Are you thinking what we're thinking?" was the 2005 Tory viral campaign. Politicians are obsessed with knowing how the electorate's feeling, as David Cameron's "National Happiness Index" in 2012 certainly exemplified. You can understand the motivation; British philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham positied that "the best society is where the people are happiest, and the best policy is the one that produces the greatest happiness".

Using real-time emotion measurement to tap in to how the nation's feeling via a mobile or laptop, makes what was an ambitious concept, suddenly seem pretty robust.

At SXSW 2014, our own Martin Salo, alongside Affectiva's Rana El Kaliouby, Bloomberg's Gary Kazanstev and Philip Resnik from ReactLabs joined forces to discuss how facial coding and emotional measurement could be used for real-time polling. Tapping in to people's subconscious feelings 'in the moment', would give an immediate and authentic layer of insight that's not so easily accessed through self-reporting.

With elections looming in the UK, we've just witnessed the face-off between Nigel Farage and Nick ('please remember me as you did in 2010') Clegg. His popularity pre-coalition was born from the UK's first American-style televised pre-election debate, which was also the first UK debate to be dial tested. The live audience would twist a dial in their hand in response to the discussion, and the results were presented in the form of "the poll worm" which wriggled across the TV screen, illustrating the highs and lows or like/dislike. It was great for the pundits as it told a good story, but every dial was twisted by a conscious hand and prone to exaggeration, in the same way a fisherman would use his hands to guage a lost catch.         

The last time I consciously voted was for how happy I was with the state of the loos at a motorway service station. Perhaps voting for the next party leader deserves a better approach than the equivalent of a click on a smiley face or a twist of a dial. Maybe I should leave it to my subconscious. That certainly gets my vote.