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New Spin On UN Index Measures Happiness In Cupcakes

Annelie Berner's final project for NYU's ITP program used the sweetness of baked goods to help people express their level of contentment versus the...

Alex Apple Sullivan
Alex Apple Sullivan on June 30, 2012. @apple_sauzz

PSFK had the chance to check out NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) end-of-year show last month and came away with 10 innovative ideas that remap the communications landscape. Check out one of our picks below:

Overall, how happy are you these days?  The subjective answer to this question is how researchers at Columbia University’s Earth Institute measured happiness across countries in an attempt to spark interest in using the emotion as a metric for public policy. The World Happiness Report for the United Nations Conference on Happiness provided the first, scientific Happy Index.  Inspired by this report and the difficulty in gathering a significant data set on an overall feeling—struggling against the ephemeral, momentary spikes of happiness or sadness in daily life—NYU Interactive Telecommunication Program graduate student Annelie Berner set about baking the Happy Index into cupcakes.  The resulting “Cupcakes Index” is a reinterpretation of the Happy Index of countries, using the subjective measure of taste to encourage people to engage with these conflicting ideas of happiness.

Each of the 96 cupcakes represented an individual country with “its own, unique amount of sugar, starting with Bulgaria, who had the least amount of happiness and the least amount of sugar,” Berner explains.  Additionally, the color of the cupcake’s wrapper represented a different level of happiness, ranging from dark blue for the least happy countries to brown, yellow, pink, and bright red for the most happy.  The people who ate the cupcakes then pinned the wrappers to a board according to their own subjective measure of sweetness, ideally tasting a few other cupcakes for a point of reference.  Participants were then able to check how closely their plotting matched the formal graph of the Happy Index.  Although the Cupcakes Index was not a completely accurate portrayal of the country data, it provided a fun and tangible way to arouse interest in the report.

Cupcakes Index

Thinking...