Panemoticon observes your behavior, makes a few inferences about your emotional state, and plays music to match your mood.
Your mouse/trackpad use — for example, the speed, breadth, and
frequency of your gestures —
says a lot about your energy level, confidence, and perceived
control over your environment. By tracking
and analyzing this data we can begin to create an image of your
mood. Panemoticon then generates music by adjusting
properties such as tonality (major/minor), harmonic complexity,
rhythmic complexity, tempo, timbre (the "texture" of the sound)
and proximity (that is, distant or in-your-face).
We can also use this mood data in aggregate form to calculate a
collective mood for all Panemoticon-using visitors to a given site.
In personal mode the add-on plays music based on your current mood. Your mouse movements will be tracked and analyzed,
and the calculated mood data (valence, arousal, dominance values) will be used to generate music. This mode is offline;
there is no network communication. Mood data will be stored on your local machine, though without any personal identifying
In collective mode the add-on plays sounds based on aggregate response to the currently displayed website. Your mouse
movements will be tracked and analyzed, and the calculated mood data (valence, arousal, dominance values) will be sent to
the server to calculate the mood of the site. No identifying information is stored.
In sleep mode, the add-on is practically disabled. There is no sound, no network communication, and no mouse tracking.
Fallaciously Anticipated Questions
What about online privacy?
Unless you share a user profile on your computer, no one need know about your mood swings. Personal mode
stores mood data on your local machine. Collective mode stores it on the server. But both are stored without
any identifying information.
Like all the good online activities, this one involves risking a
little privacy. We'll be careful and try not to be evil; it's
up to you to decide how much to trust that intention. If you're
unsure, disable Panemoticon or keep it in Sleep mode.
What's all this naughty talk about dominance and arousal?
The idea of using computer input devices to gather emotional data while users are engaged in other tasks
was initially proposed by Zimmermann et al (2003). We
have loosely followed their proposed method, based on the dimensional model of affect ‐ a way of studying
emotion by breaking it down into simple components.
The Semantic Differential Scale devised by Mehrabian and Russell (1974) maps its survey questions onto dimensions called
valence (happy/sad), arousal (calm/excited), and dominance (your perceived degree of control over your environment). These
dimensions were also applied in the Self-Assessment Manikin by Lang (1980), the source of the blockheaded graphics we use
to display and calibrate emotional data.
What kind of music is this?
Panemoticon plays generative music — music that is created not by explicit composition or direct human performance,
but rather by a system configured to respond to certain input parameters. Windchimes are a commonly cited example of
a generative music system — the builder tunes them to play certain frequencies, but then leaves it up to the wind to
determine when the chimes will be struck, in what sequence, and at what velocity.
This particular system uses tables of probabilities to determine when notes are played on various "instruments" and at
It is built on the open-source audiolib.js framework.
This doesn't reflect my mood. It's not working!
Because everyone expresses their emotions differently, we've designed the software to learn from your feedback.
Train it to gauge your personal mood more accurately:
Click on the Panemoticon logo in the footer of your Firefox browser.
Select Personal mode from the General tab.
Click on the Your mood tab.
Click the Edit button beside Your computed mood.
Adjust the sliders to reflect your self-perceived valence, arousal, and dominance values.
Panemoticon is a 2012 commission of New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc. for its Turbulence web site. It was made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.