Apple iPhones to ‘map happiness’
By Matt Warman
London School of Economics project will ask iPhone users to say how happy they are and compare answers to location
A new iPhone app has been developed by researchers at the LSE in a bid to “track the UK’s happiness across space and time”.
Mappiness officially launches today, and aims to help researchers understand how people’s feelings are affected by their immediate environment. Pollution, noise, weather conditions and green space will be among the factors that data will be compared against.
The app asks users to say how they’re feeling at a random time each day, and uses satellite positioning to discover their location while they answer. Response locations are then linked to environmental data.
Lead researcher George MacKerron, of the LSE’s Department of Geography & Environment, said “By tracking across space as well as time, and by making novel use of a technology that millions of people already carry with them, we hope to find better answers to questions about the impacts of natural beauty, environmental problems - maybe even aspects of climate - on individual and national wellbeing.”
National happiness levels are updated in real-time on the project website, www.mappiness.org.uk, alongside maps and timelines derived from the response data. App users also get access to personalised charts analysing their own mood in return for taking part.
Professor Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-being Programme at LSE’s Centre for Economic Performance, said: “Mappiness is a revolutionary research idea. It is the best method so far devised for understanding how people’s emotions are affected by the buildings and natural environment in which they move”.
The app asks how “happy”, how “relaxed” and how “awake” they feel using sliding scales. It also asks for brief contextual information, on activity, companionship and location, and users who are outdoors can optionally contribute a photo. Ambient noise levels are measured using the iPhone’s microphone.
All data is sent back anonymously to a central data store. Mappiness is a free download on Apple’s App Store and is compatible with all iPhone models. The researchers aim to get at least 3,000 people joining in the project.