Reflections on emoto



This is a whole new way to experience and have a bird’s eye perspective on big events.

emoto captured and visualised the emotional intensity around the London 2012 Olympic Games, and provided a unique ‘peoples’ perspective on events as they happened.

Based on analysis of approx. 12.5 million Twitter messages, emoto presented both the big picture, the world from above, as well as the intimate and personal details enabling the viewer to zoom right in to specific detail. The dynamic nature of evolving news stories within the Olympic Games could be followed online via emoto, providing greater insight in real-time and an alternative perspective to that found in standard (eg TV) sport media coverage, or in the live experience for fans.

emoto was a data art project which set out to generate beauty and meaning out of the everyday interactions of millions of people.

The development and design of the online emoto visualization took a significant amount of time, developing and testing systems, building infrastructure as well as all of the front-end design and interface development of emoto. The team strove to ensure the creation of a real-time visualization that was original and insightful in its perspective; that it was accurate, dynamic and also beautiful, in making a vast amount of data immediately understandable to viewers in a moment through a couple of clicks of a mouse.

We had to jump many hurdles, from London 2012 branding restrictions to a change in the Terms of Service of Twitter. New limits on use of Twitter data meant entirely new infrastructure had to be built just two weeks prior to the London 2012 Opening Ceremony.

A special quality of emoto is that the data is archived in its entirety. This means that there is the possibility for continued research and investigation, using the information after the Games have concluded.

The emoto data sculpture video documentation can be seen via the Studio NAND vimeo channel.

How we visualise the emotional response to London 2012


The emoto project captures and visualises the excitement around the Olympic Games in London 2012. emoto moves from real-time (web-based visualisation and mobile app, launching 26 July) to echo (sensory installation, during the Paralympics) to archive (data sculpture, at the Cultural Olympiad closing event).

Real-time data visualisation Our real-time data visualisation shows both the big picture, the world from above, and the intimate and personal. In topics view, we see the big picture, which event, athlete or topic is generating the most attention in the moment, and the mix of positive and negative emotions for each. The anecdotal and ephemeral is seen in the message stream view. An overview on each day shows an even bigger picture, the trends and patterns. This is a whole new way to experience and make sense of the pulse of the Games.

Data Sculpture

The data art sculpture at WE PLAY Expois a cumulative record of the collective response to the Olympics, with projected overlays conveying individual stories. In addition, the emoto team will blog about interesting findings in the digital visualisations – for example where a cluster of comments can be attributed to a particular event or sports person – providing a more in-depth analysis of these historic sporting events which are being experienced and shared by online audiences.

emoto launches on 26 July online, the day before the Olympic Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, and provides a unique real-time manifestation of the worldwide mood in response to London 2012.

Created by artists Moritz Stefaner, Drew Hemment and Studio NAND, emoto is a FutureEverything project with MIT Senseable City Lab for the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad in the Northwest.