Dee Kim on

This article first appeared in issue 230 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

.net: Why are you doing this?
DK: is part of my MFA thesis for Graduate Media Design at the Art Center College of Design. Emotion itself has been studied in many different fields, but I was interested in crying specifically, because it’s usually an intimate and personal experience.

.net: Is this a stand-alone project or part of something bigger?
DK: It’s one part of my thesis which explores the act of crying and its relationship to media in different spaces. I created a series of prototypes for social media, interactive television and a public booth. My intention wasn’t to analyse why people cry, but to experiment with these designs and raise questions about the need for crying in a mediated social environment.

.net: What have been your most interesting findings so far?
DK: It is getting a lot of responses, and mostly users are excited to have something else besides the ‘like’ ‘dislike’ binary option. Actually the project wasn’t about looking at YouTube, and trying to figure out what it lacks. Instead, it started from simple curiosity about crying and its characteristics. Unlike emotional terms like ‘sad,’ ‘cry’ is a verb that describes a specific action, so that’s why I thought the button would work well. The button still leaves certain things open to interpretation such as whether the person cried out of sadness, or hysterical laughter.

.net: What kinds of videos are making people cry?
DK: A higher number of votes are coming from the entertainment industry as opposed to my expectation that they would come from true stories (I cry a lot over clips from the Oprah Winfrey show). But, I don’t think there should be any preference for empathetic crying over tear-jerker crying. I’m also interested in small numbers as well, which I haven’t yet explored to its full extent.

.net: Have you been surprised at the clips that people cry over?
DK: Since YouTube is a vast database of content, there are clips that I see for the first time from this experiment, and I assume that will be the same for everyone else. All the clips that I haven’t seen before surprise me in their own way.

.net: What kind of response have you had to the project?
DK: I didn’t know people were that frustrated about only having a ‘like’ button on YouTube. Also, some people view this tool as a more active communication device that will help people let out complex emotions, and I think it’s just a starting point to truly explore the shaping of emotional landscape in the digital space.

Since this project is using aggregating numbers as the main representation of emotion, I’m unable to see what people really feel when they find a video that made them cry. So, my next step will be to dive deeper into these peculiar moments. I also received suggestions to expand this button to other emotions, but I would like to keep exploring crying a little bit more.

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