What do you get when you mash up the "quantified self," big data, and happiness trends? According to John Havens, a former EVP of Social Media at Porter Novelli and author of the forthcoming H(app)y: The Value of Well-Being in a Digital Economy, this mixture yields a brand-new "happiness economy," where Nike+ exercise logs, Klout reputation scores and Recyclebank conservation data merge into feedback loops—both at a personal and collective level—to create a prosocial and perfect world where well-being is the new wealth.
Maybe this vision calls to mind a nanny state of frightening, near-Mary-Poppins-like omniscience and cheer. But it's getting taken seriously in some high places. Havens has founded the H(app)athon Project to crowdsource his vision. They have just announced a partnership with the city of Somerville, MA, which is the only U.S. city to ask in its official census about citizens' happiness—an effort similar to the nation of Bhutan's National Happiness Index.
In the current phase of the project, people are being asked to sign up for a happiness survey that works like many academic studies on the topic: After completing an initial survey, participants will be pinged randomly for two weeks and asked to respond with what they're doing and their current mood. The idea is to gather a fuller picture of what makes each person happy, to optimize the workings of the app both for individuals and communities.
The full version of the app, set to be released in March 2014, will not only track the user's happiness both actively and passively through sensors and reveal shifting happiness data from around the world via a "global mood ring" display, but also connect individuals to opportunities to become happier, like visiting a local park or volunteering.
[Image: Flickr user Fechi Fajardo]