Image of various emoji facesEvan Selinger, a Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology, has posted an article for Wired, in which he discusses the implications of how we have simplified the expression of emotion in the online systems we use, and how those simplified emotions are being tracked, analyzed and used.

Referring to Facebook’s addition earlier this year of a range of emotional expressions beyond “Like” and Bitly’s recent announcement of its “Feelings” tool, Selinger says, “I’m not singling out Facebook or even Bitly here; Google Plus on mobile also offers such expressions, as do a number of other websites and apps. The point is that all these interfaces are now focusing on the emotional aspects of our information diets. To put this development in a broader context: the mood graph has arrived, taking its place alongside the social graph (most commonly associated with Facebook), citation-link graph and knowledge graph (associated with Google), work graph (LinkedIn and others), and interest graph (Pinterest and others).”

Selinger acknowledges that there are benefits to these basic expressions of emotions, listing “relevance, customization, targeting; search, discovery, structuring; advertising, purchasing behaviors, and more.” However, the bulk of this opinion piece is devoted to how limiting the practice is, particularly when the options for self-expression are reduced to a drop-down list of pre-determined options. He points out that “with the constrained inputs of a mood graph, we are focusing almost exclusively on spoken, pre-programmed output — thus diminishing the power of authentic, creative speech.”

The post is a thought-provoking dive into issues of privacy, control, expression, and socialization to name just a few of the big topics he tackles. Read the full article here, and then weigh in below about whether you think Semantic Web technologies could be a help or a hindrance in addressing some of the concerns Selinger lays out.

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