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Science beyond fiction: Jacobs University participates in EU CyberEmotions project

17.12.2008 - (idw) Jacobs University Bremen

Jacobs University Bremen receives about 420,000 Euros for research on emotion reaction assessment within the CyberEmotions project funded by the EU with 3.6 Mio Euros in total. Focusing on the detection and emergence mechanisms of collective emotions in Internet communities and their role for the emotional climate in society, the project includes experts in emotion psychology, complex systems, theoretical physics, computer science, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. Project leader at Jacobs University is the emotion scientist Arvid Kappas. The CyberEmotions consortium with nine partner institutions in six EU countries will begin its work in early 2009 for a four year period. The science of complex systems has seen a dramatic increase in interest in recent years, as it becomes clear that many phenomena in different spheres of life are characterized by the emerging properties of large systems and their interactions. As the benefits of such research are both, theoretical and applied, the European Union has set out to foster "novel non-conventional approaches and foundational research in selected themes in response to emerging societal and industrial needs" in its 7th Framework Programme regarding "Future and Emerging Technologies". In this context the CyberEmotions consortium aims at contributing to the development of socially intelligent information and communication technology.

Within the CyberEmotions Project the Jacobs research team under the lead of Arvid Kappas will measure changes in physiological parameters such as heart rate or the activity of specific facial muscles while Internet users read or write contents in blogs or forums and interact online. Together with the participants' own descriptions on how their feelings and reactions change, these data will be analyzed by sophisticated computer models based on complex system science that will help to understand, for example, why certain combinations of factors lead to emotional changes in large groups of online users.

"One of the biggest challenges for emotion science in the years to come is to link findings concerning the emotions of individuals and simple interactions to the notion of large scale networks of people in cyberspace," Arvid Kappas believes. The human brain and the emotional "configuration" of humans, says the psychology professor, evolved several hundred thousand years ago in the context of living in small groups with relatively stable, mostly lifelong relationships between individuals. "On the Internet, however, if someone writes something provocative or strange, immediately a large number of people, who have never met, will start to discuss, argue, and change the views of thousands of others in a matter of minutes and hours. How will our brains react? At present we have only a poor grasp of such collective emotional phenomena."

Through the wide array of disciplines covered by the consortium, which, besides Jacobs University, includes research groups at Warsaw University of Technology, TU Berlin, ETH Zurich, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, the Jozef Stefan Institute Ljubljana, the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Vienna, University of Wolverhampton, as well as Gemius SA, Poland, the researchers expect to be able to not only analyze and understand the collective emotional phenomena of people in cyberspace. "Eventually we hope to be able to predict the emergence of such phenomena. If we can detect that certain critical events are "brewing" before they actually happen, we can intervene using novel intelligent web technology tools developed and tested within the consortium," emotion scientist Kappas concludes.

For further information see:

Contact at Jacobs University:
Prof. Dr. Arvid Kappas
Professor of Psychology
Tel.: +49 421 200-3441
Weitere Informationen: EU Initiative on Future and Emerging Technologies The Future European Technology Conference 2009 "Science beyond Fiction" 7th Framework Programme regarding "Future and Emerging Technologies"

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