Bio Mapping - Christian Nold

Affect Browser

Christian Nold
2006 - ongoing

The Affect Browser is a tool for extracting and visualising the hidden emotional slant of any text (English for now). In particular it tries to show how an individual text relates semantically to a group of others that are focused on a particular topic.

The software uses a dictonary of positive and negative affect (emotion) words such as "lovely, great,terrible" to draw a series of word clouds. Red is positive, blue negative while the yellow cloud shows the 10 most frequently used words for the text with stop words like "the, and , it" removed.
The resulting diagram is both a content summary as well as an indication of its emotional slanting.

The Affect Browser is a tool I developed for myself in order to help with research into controversial technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification Tags . I am using this tool in workshop settings in order to allow participants to think deeper and sideways about techno/social problems. The software allows visual brain storming for the communal deliberation of a topic lexicon and classification of topic actors. The resulting maps become powerful visualisations of this enquiry and lend themselves well to public communication via electronic display or print reproduction.

If you would like to organise a workshop, exhibit some of my maps or commission a custom map on a particular topic please get in touch

Anyway I thought this was too useful a tool to keep to myself so I thought I thought to make it publically available. Load in a single or multiple a text from the internet or your hardrive and navigate with the arrow keys and the < > keys to zoom. The Space Bar resets the view. Make links and then export as a PDF.

Download application for OSX 2meg (version alpha 5)

I am sure there are many bugs. Please email me with bugs and suggestions and i will get a new version out soon!

"Affect is the body’s way of preparing itself for action in a given circumstance by adding a quantitative dimension of intensity to the quality of an experience."
(Eric Shouse 2005)

Speech is performative "in which by saying or in saying something we are doing something" (Austin 1976). In this sense then the Affect Browser shows the emotional state of the text (author) but also how it is meant to perform towards an audience ie. influence them.

What holds for the receiver also holds, for the same reason, for the sender or the producer. To write is to produce a mark that will consitute a sort of machine which is productive in turn, and which my future disappearnace will not, in principle, hinder in its functioning, offering things and itself to be read and written.
(Derrida 1977)

The aim of the Affect Browser is to interogate these text machines and find out how they perform their function.

Word authority more habit forming than heroin no this is not the old power addicts talk I am talking about a certain excercise of authority through the use of colorless words
form the user more than heroin and he must have more and more.
(William Burroughs 1967)


An Affect Map of 20 UK news websites. Note, the Sun newspaper website uses the words 'Bingo' and 'Games' with more frequency than 'News'. 'News' doesn't even appear in the Top 10 words on the Metro newspaper site while 'Beyonce' and 'Barbecue' do.


The first Affect Browser Map showing the common semantic connections between a number Anti-RFID websites. The piece was created at a worshop at Labomedia in Orleans, France.


Here is a visulisation of the of the Stern Review on the economics of climate change made by Mark Simpkins CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0

Christian Nold


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Creative CommonsW3C XHTML W3C CSS

All the work on the Softhook website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.5 License unless otherwise stated on the page or in the image ALT tag. The CSS is adapted from Intensive Station

Last Updated 3/3/2011

It has been an enourmous long time since I last updated this! I have never been a blog person, and felt irritated by the way new media culture pushes us to be constantly visible to the world. Recently though I kept getting email from people wondering what I was up to. So today is my birthday and I have finally given in :) . So a quick update I am excited about what Rob van Kranenburg and I are calling the Internet of People - which will be a book coming out in the next few months. I am also exstatic about trying to build and map alternative currencies. Take a look at the Bijlmer Euro project. In the last year I have also been building a unique mapping software called Sensory Journeys and the Town Toolkits for which I will build a proper site. On Saturday I am off to Helsinki for the Pixeache festival where I am preseting some work but more importantly working on and island toolkit for the next year. More info soon...