This emotional life

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

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Mark your calendar or set your DVR for January 4th, which is the premiere of an interesting new series from PBS called This Emotional Life. Happiness will be a significant focus of the series, and the interviewees are a fascinating and diverse group: Katie Couric, Richard Gere, Larry David, Chevy Chase, and a slew of scientists and everyday people. The series is hosted by Dan Gilbert, a Harvard psychology professor and author of the excellent book Stumbling on Happiness.

I’m not sure there will be much perspective on the relevance of design to our emotional lives, but there rarely is in these sorts of discussions. They usually focus on a person’s relationship with the self or with others, and almost never focus on the relationships between people, spaces, and things, unless those relationships are negative: materialism, shopaholism, hoarding…. (Of course, I don’t think the focus on people is wrong — things are no substitute for people in the joy equation, and money can’t buy happiness. I only point out that the connection between objects and emotions in a positive way is rarely a focus in the pop science arena.)

But I’ll be watching because I think the topics covered will provide copious opportunities for thinking about emotion and design. Jessica Zucker’s info-packed post on skin and the sense of touch on the series’s website is  a great example of the kind of thinking that gets my mind buzzing with ideas for how to design in a more emotionally positive way.

Watch the trailer here.

November 16th, 2009

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