Advertisement for Digital Logistics Synthesizer, 1977 (Source: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

Advertisement for Digital Logistics Synthesizer, 1977 (Source: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)

Orders of Emotion: Computing and Human Feeling from Feedback to Facebook

A synthesizer on the psychiatrist's couch...

is just one strange cyborg encounter in Orders of Emotion: Computing and Human Feelings from Feedback to Facebook, a history of the behavioral sciences’ influence on computing from World War II to the present.

Digital personality tracking, affective computing, and emotional artificial intelligence (AI) are major growth areas in computer science. I use original archival research and historical analysis to chart the genesis of these technologies. By unpacking a hitherto unstudied history of emotion and computation, the book argues the design of contemporary clinical and popular technologies for tracking human emotions, such as smart phone apps or wearable devices, is grounded in a longer, often circuitous history of diverse fields including physiology, clinical psychology, cybernetics, and communication studies.

The book explains the ongoing impact of the psychological sciences on contemporary Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI) research, and social media platform design and experimentation, and critiques the racial, gendered, and cultural assumptions at work in erstwhile neutral contemporary systems for measuring and analyzing emotional data. Orders of Emotion speaks to vital public debates around algorithmic discrimination and fairness, digital quantification, and the impacts of artificial intelligence and machine learning writ large.