How Happy Is Your City? 'Selfies' Will Show

If you're like me, you pretty much check Twitter to see what your friends are up to, and what's going on in the world (that's how I knew exactly what was going on minute-by-minute during the Boston Marathon massacre).  But what would you think if it could tell you how happy your city was?

That's the new plan developed by the University of California, San Diego and The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).  They're collecting and analyzing tweeted images of cities to measure just how happy people are in cities.

According to, the project will tackle a simple question: Is it possible to measure the overall happiness of metropolitan areas based on the study of images shared on Twitter?

"Can visual characteristics of images shared on social media tell us something about the ‘moods’ of cities?” the Web site quotes principal investigator Mehrdad Yazdani, a data scientist with the Software Studies Initiative (SSI) at the Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). “We will analyze one million tweeted images over the course of one year in specific U.S. cities, and test for correlations with other measures of happiness in the same cities.”

So, what do you think?  Can birthday balloons floating up into the sky or outdoor concerts waves tell how people feel in your city? 

"Existing measures of happiness are based on traditional surveys and other data sources, including statistics about crime, health and well-being," newswise reports. "To the best of the team’s knowledge, no similar study has been done with images shared on social media, but it’s a logical extension of work done by Manovich’s teams on both coasts. Earlier in 2014, they released a study of 3,200 Instagram ‘selfies’ (self portraits) across six cities In 2013, and they analyzed and visualized 2.3 million Instagram photos from 13 cities in their Phototrails project. 

The researchers will use standard measures used in image processing and computer vision, such as color measures, edge orientations, and texture characteristics,
“We can then test if the characteristics of such images can be correlated with measures of social health such as the Gallup well−being index and Health Ranking,” added Yazdani at “For example, do cities that are more ‘happy’ have more selfies, and do people smile more when taking selfies?”
So if you want to be voted the happiest city in America, be careful with those selfies!


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