Happiness

It’s “International Day of Happiness” today, which I thought was a perfect excuse, and a gentle nudge to get me to finally write this post.

Way back in November last year, I took part in AcrossRCA,  a set of week-long cross-disciplinary projects at the RCA, bringing together students and staff with different expertise, interests and perspectives to collaborate on a wide range of briefs.  I was lucky enough to get a place on the Data Provocation course run by Karin von Ompteda.

The brief was fairly simple, find some open data, and plot it in an interesting way that was thought provoking.  It was less about the message in the data itself, and more about questioning it in terms of its meaning, validity, source and impact.  It was also deemed that the end result should be a physical object that could be exhibited, and not an interactive digital visualisation.

We were given instruction, and encouraged to use the very accessible World Bank Databank and a free trial of SAS JMP to do this (although most of the manipulation ended up being undertaken in Excel!).  My Group consisted of Tetsuro Ikenishi from Service Design, Joanne Harik from Information Experience Design, and Brendan Cawley and Wei-Che Chang from Innovation Design Engineering.

Our interest from the start revolved around happiness indexes, the perceived overall happiness of a country and its representation/measurement.  How do you measure happiness?  It turns out in a number of very complicated ways using a combination of different metrics, for example the Satisfaction With Life Index measures subjective well-being by through directly asking how happy they are (along with other social and economic development factors), the Happy Planet Index focuses on sustainability and the World Happiness Report relies largely on GDP per capita and life expectancy (seemingly attesting that you cannot lead a poor, short happy life).  Almost all of these indexes use a mixture of quantifiable and unquantifiable data, and no matter what the number or ranking alongside other countries that is provided, the overall mood of the country always remains the same.

Quite early on we latched on to chocolate and its relationship with happiness.  Some of the preliminary ideas floated around included indicating the difference between chocolate importers and exporters in terms of happiness.  Another idea was to show how according to different indexes, certain countries could be ranked in completely different orders.

We ended up producing a visual representation of 3 different happiness values attributed to the U.K. in 2014 (OECD Better Life Index, UN World Happiness Report, and the Ipsos Global Happiness Report) and depicted them using different sized pieces of chocolate.

UK Happiness represented by different sized eggs
UK happiness represented by different sized chocolate balls

Participants were asked to choose which piece best represented the overall happiness of the UK.  Their selection was delivered manually by a clothed hand (from a not so happy member of the team hiding under the desk waiting for a cue… usually Tetsuro!)

Inside the chocolate was a small note explaining the Index value that the chosen piece represents and explaining that all three spheres are made from the same quantity of chocolate (as the happiness remains the same regardless of the measure).

This project was a bit of a baptism of fire for me, it was the first time I have been part of an ambitious collaborative art project with the intention of displaying it to peers at the end of a short period.  Luckily the rest of my team were more than capable enough to make up for my lack of experience.

I particularly liked the sign, made almost entirely by Joanne, and composed of a laser cut plywood front and a backbox filled with colour changing LED balls, when all the balls were switched on inside the housing it gave the sign a psychedelic undulating effect.  Also of note was the hard work put in by Cawley, who worked hard to set the chocolate in their moulds, and then successfully managed to transport them on what turned out to be an unseasonably warm day, and in a very well heated building.

The whole undertaking was extremely useful for me in that it covered an aspect relevant to my PhD that I am less comfortable with, that of informative or visualisation art.  It also allowed me to practice things like woodwork that I had not undertaken since before my GCSEs (surprisingly I was not too bad at it either).

Early on, while we were deciding on what exactly we were going to produce, I compiled a lot of data from different sources into a single spreadsheet.  Much of that data went unused (as we only used 3 data points in the end).  So rather than let the data go to waste, I thought I would compile it into an interactive visualisation.

Happiness_Vis

Click the image for an interactive version (which I may re-visit at a later date, as it is not very responsive, and lacks a scale).  For a table of the data used in the visualisation see below or click “Read More”.

Country NEF Happy Planet Index Score 2012 Economist Where to Be Born Index Score 2013 UN World Happiness Report Score 2013 Ipsos Percentage People "very happy" 2012 Ipsos Percentage People "very happy" 2014 World Database of Happiness 2014 Satisfaction With Life Index 2006 Included On Map?
Afghanistan 36.8 4.1 Yes
Albania 54.1 5.55 4.6 153.33 Yes
Algeria 52.2 5.86 5.422 5.4 173.33 Yes
Angola 5.09 5.589 4.3 160 Yes
Argentina 54.1 6.39 6.562 23 22 7.3 226.67 Yes
Armenia 46 5 123.33 Yes
Australia 42 8.12 7.35 28 19 7.7 243.33 Yes
Austria 47.1 7.73 7.369 7.4 260 Yes
Azerbaijan 40.9 5.6 5.3 163.33 Yes
Bangladesh 56.3 5.07 5.3 190 Yes
Belarus 37.4 5.504 5.2 133.33 Yes
Belgium 37.1 7.51 6.967 16 17 7.3 243.33 Yes
Belize 59.3 6.6 230 Yes
Benin 3 180 Yes
Bhutan 253.33 Yes
Bolivia 43.6 5.857 6.3 183.33 Yes
Bosnia and Herzegovina 42.4 170 Yes
Bosnia Herzegovina 5.8 Yes
Botswana 4.7 180 Yes
Brazil 52.9 6.52 6.849 30 33 7.5 210 Yes
Brunei 253.33 Yes
Bulgaria 5.73 4.4 143.33 Yes
Burkina Faso 4.4 156.67 Yes
Burundi 2.9 100 Yes
Cambodia 40.3 4.9 186.67 Yes
Cameroon 3.9 170 Yes
Canada 43.6 7.81 7.477 27 24 7.8 253.33 Yes
Central African Rep 4.6 Yes
Central African Republic 163.33 Yes
Chad 5.4 150 Yes
Chile 53.9 7.1 6.587 6.7 216.67 Yes
China 44.7 5.99 19 10 6.3 210 Yes
Colombia 59.8 6.27 6.416 7.7 240 Yes
Costa Rica 64 6.92 7.257 8.5 250 Yes
Côte d’Ivoire 4.4 150 Yes
Croatia 40.6 6.06 5.661 6 196.67 Yes
Cuba 56.2 6.39 210 Yes
Cyprus 45.5 7.1 6.466 7.1 230 Yes
Czech Republic 39.4 6.96 6.29 6.5 213.33 Yes
Democratic Republic of the Congo 4.4 110 Yes
Denmark 36.6 8.01 7.693 8.3 273.33 Yes
Djibouti 37.2 5.7 160 Yes
Dominican Republic 50.7 5.93 7.5 233.33 Yes
East Timor 220 Yes
Ecuador 52.5 5.7 5.865 6.4 186.67 Yes
Egypt 39.6 5.76 5.7 160 Yes
El Salvador 58.9 5.72 5.809 6.7 220 Yes
Equatorial Guinea 173.33 Yes
Eritrea 146.67 Yes
Estonia 6.07 5.426 6 170 Yes
Ethiopia 39.2 4.2 156.67 Yes
Fiji 223.33 Yes
Finland 42.7 7.76 7.389 7.9 256.67 Yes
France 46.5 7.04 6.764 15 11 6.6 220 Yes
Gabon 206.67 Yes
Georgia 46 4.3 136.67 Yes
Germany 47.2 7.38 6.672 16 11 7.1 240 Yes
Ghana 40.3 5.2 206.67 Yes
Greece 40.5 6.65 5.435 6.4 210 Yes
Guatemala 56.9 5.965 7.2 233.33 Yes
Guinea 4.5 170 Yes
Guinea-Bissau 180 Yes
Guyana 51.2 6.5 240 Yes
Haiti 41.3 3.9 183.33 Yes
Honduras 56 5.142 7 240 Yes
Hungary 37.4 6.06 6 8 5.5 190 Yes
Iceland 40.2 7.355 8.2 260 Yes
India 50.9 5.67 43 41 5.5 180 Yes
Indonesia 55.5 5.54 5.348 51 55 6.3 220 Yes
Iran 41.7 5.78 5.9 200 Yes
Iraq 49.2 4.7 Yes
Ireland 42.4 7.74 7.076 7.6 253.33 Yes
Israel 55.2 7.23 7.301 7 223.33 Yes
Italy 46.4 7.21 6.021 13 9 6.7 230 Yes
Jamaica 58.5 5.374 6.7 233.33 Yes
Japan 47.5 7.08 6.064 16 12 6.5 206.67 Yes
Jordan 51.7 5.63 5.414 5.9 170 Yes
Kazakhstan 5.2 5.671 6.1 193.33 Yes
Kenya 38 5.17 3.7 186.67 Yes
Kosovo 5.222 5.4 Yes
Kuwait 7.18 6.515 6.6 240 Yes
Kyrgyzstan 49.1 5.5 220 Yes
Laos 49.1 6.2 180 Yes
Latvia 6.01 5.4 156.67 Yes
Lebanon 42.9 4.7 186.67 Yes
Lesotho 143.33 Yes
Liberia 4.3 Yes
Libya 40.8 5.34 190 Yes
Lithuania 5.82 5.426 5.5 156.67 Yes
Luxembourg 7.054 7.7 253.33 Yes
Macedonia 4.7 163.33 Yes
Madagascar 46.8 3.7 193.33 Yes
Malawi 42.5 6.2 153.33 Yes
Malaysia 40.5 6.62 5.76 6.5 246.67 Yes
Mali 4.7 176.67 Yes
Malta 43.1 5.964 7.1 250 Yes
Mauritania 4.9 176.67 Yes
Mexico 52.9 6.41 7.088 43 38 7.9 230 Yes
Moldova 48 5.791 4.9 116.67 Yes
Mongolia 5.7 223.33 Yes
Montenegro 5.299 5.2 Yes
Morocco 47.9 5.67 5.4 186.67 Yes
Mozambique 3.8 180 Yes
Myanmar 44.2 176.67 Yes
Namibia 38.9 5.2 216.67 Yes
Nepal 45.6 5.3 183.33 Yes
Netherlands 43.1 7.94 7.512 7.6 250 Yes
New Zealand 51.6 7.95 7.221 7.5 246.67 Yes
Nicaragua 57.1 5.507 7.1 210 Yes
Niger 3.8 150 Yes
Nigeria 4.75 5.248 5.7 183.33 Yes
North Cyprus 5.463 Yes
Norway 51.4 8.09 7.655 7.9 246.67 Yes
Oman 6.853 243.33 Yes
Pakistan 54.1 4.91 5.292 5 143.33 Yes
Panama 57.8 7.143 7.8 240 Yes
Papua New Guinea 210 Yes
Paraguay 45.8 5.779 6.8 216.67 Yes
Peru 52.4 6.24 5.776 6.2 186.67 Yes
Philippines 52.4 5.71 5.9 213.33 Yes
Poland 42.6 6.66 5.822 15 12 6.4 196.67 Yes
Portugal 38.7 6.92 5.101 5.7 203.33 Yes
Qatar 6.666 6.8 233.33 Yes
Republic of the Congo 3.7 190 Yes
Romania 42.2 5.85 5.7 173.33 Yes
Russia 5.31 5.464 8 11 5.5 143.33 Yes
Rwanda 36.9 4.3 146.67 Yes
Saudi Arabia 46 6.49 6.48 21 20 6.5 243.33 Yes
Senegal 4.5 186.67 Yes
Serbia 41.3 5.86 5.4 Yes
Sierra Leone 3.5 166.67 Yes
Slovakia 40.1 6.64 5.969 5.9 180 Yes
Slovenia 40.2 6.77 6.06 6.9 220 Yes
Solomon Islands 230 Yes
South Africa 5.89 21 26 5.8 190 Yes
South Korea 43.8 7.25 6.267 7 6 6 193.33 Yes
Spain 44.1 6.96 6.322 11 12 7.2 233.33 Yes
Sri Lanka 49.4 5.71 5.1 203.33 Yes
Sudan 37.6 5 120 Yes
Suriname 6.269 243.33 Yes
Swaziland 140 Yes
Sweden 46.2 8.02 7.48 20 22 7.8 256.67 Yes
Switzerland 50.3 8.22 7.65 8 273.33 Yes
Syria 47.1 5.29 5.9 170 Yes
Taiwan 7.67 6.221 6.2 220 Yes
Tajikistan 47.8 5.1 203.33 Yes
Tanzania 2.8 183.33 Yes
Thailand 53.5 5.96 6.371 6.6 216.67 Yes
The Bahamas 256.67 Yes
The Gambia 190 Yes
Togo 2.6 163.33 Yes
Trinidad and Tobago 6.519 7 230 Yes
Tunisia 48.3 5.77 5.9 213.33 Yes
Turkey 47.6 5.95 5.345 30 22 5.6 176.67 Yes
Turkmenistan 39.1 5.628 7.2 133.33 Yes
Uganda 4.8 156.67 Yes
Ukraine 37.6 4.98 5 120 Yes
United Arab Emirate 7.3 Yes
United Arab Emirates 7.33 7.144 246.67 Yes
United Kingdom 47.9 7.01 6.883 21 16 7.2 236.67 Yes
United States 37.3 7.38 7.082 28 26 7.4 246.67 Yes
Uruguay 39.3 6.355 6.7 210 Yes
Uzbekistan 46 5.623 6 213.33 Yes
Vanuatu 246.67 Yes
Venezuela 56.9 6.07 7.039 7.5 246.67 Yes
Vietnam 60.4 5.64 5.533 6.1 203.33 Yes
Yemen 43 4.8 206.67 Yes
Zambia 37.7 5 163.33 Yes
Zimbabwe 3 110 Yes
Palestine 51.2 4.9 180 No
Singapore 39.8 8 6.546 6.9 230 No
Hong Kong 37.5 7.8 5.523 6.6 220 No
Mauritius 36.6 5.477 216.67 No
Bahrain 5.312 240 No
Bahrain 5.312 240 No
Andorra 6.8 No
Antigua and Barbuda 246.67 No
Seychelles 246.67 No
Saint Kitts and Nevis 246.67 No
Barbados 243.33 No
Dominica 243.33 No
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 240 No
Saint Lucia 233.33 No
Samoa 230 No
São Tomé and Príncipe 223.33 No
Maldives 220 No
Tonga 220 No
Grenada 216.67 No
Comoros 196.67 No
Cape Verde 193.33 No

Notes:

  • The countries not included on the map are due to a lack of representation in the map data utilised.
  • In the NEF Happy Planet Index 2012 countries with a score lower than 36.6 (ranked over 111th place) are not provided.
  • In some sources the identifier Great Britain was used, these were grouped under United Kingdom for the sake of simplicity

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