How about measuring the happiness of the world?

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Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, asks its 520,000 residents to give a note on their instant mood to capture the city's degree of happiness. Could this be the model for our cities of the future? 

 

While Lithuania, hard hit by the financial crisis of 2008-2009, is ranked among the most unfortunate of the 58 countries surveyed in 2011 by thehe Chief Magistrate of Vilnius has just had a "happiness barometer" installed on a giant screen on the façade of the town hall, which is responsible for updating the morale of the inhabitants in real time.

That "this" Happiness Barometer "asks the town's residents about their level of happiness. On a scale of one to ten, they can indicate their level of satisfaction using their computer or mobile phone.

The interactive audience survey system IQ Pools will then instantly collect the data and calculate the average score of a city, while allowing cities around the world to compare themselves with each other. After a week of launch, the Happiness Barometer has collected more than 5000 votes, achieving an average score of 6.1 out of 10 in the city of Vilnius, where a smiley face and hourly results are now displayed on TV screens in the city hall lobby.

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Simplifying contacts between citizens and policy-makers?

This is not the first time that a country has tried to capture the quality of happiness of its people, such as Bhutan, which has replaced gross national product with gross national happiness. "The problem is that most of these indices are based on economic criteria," says Arturas Jonkus, co-founder of IQ Pools. The goal is therefore "to encourage people around the world to smile and share their positive emotions more," recalls the founders of the Happiness Barometer. "It is also a great tool for politicians," adds Mayor Arturas Zuokas. "If we make a decision and we see a sharp drop in the general mood of the city, then we know that it is a bad decision. » 

Lithuania, a country of three million people, will hold the Presidency of the European Union for the next six months. A few years ago, Lithuania was hard hit by the crisis. The government then decided to prescribe a drastic austerity cure for the country. Half a million Lithuanians had emigrated.

The Director of the Institute of International Relations at the University of Vilnius said in an interview to Euronews this summer: "LLithuania has valuable experience, for example its experience of economic reforms, not only in its response to the financial crisis of recent years but also in transition reforms (...) Confidence in the European Union remains high since accession in 2004 (...) And I think that's the foundation of that sense of confidence rather than any material benefit that guides our country.

Towards a global generalization?

This type of "barometer" already exists in the USA. Through messages on Twitter, American researchers are constantly analysing the moods of the public with the help of a computer program. It is called a "hedonometer". (1) and is available to the public on www.hedonometer.org . The system collects some 50 million tweets daily from around the world, say researchers at the University of Vermont (Northeast) and the MITRE Corporation, a non-profit research organization. "We put all these words in a huge container" to calculate a happiness index, says Dodds. "It gives a very good idea of how happy people are, and it's in real time," he says.

(1) The word "hedonometer" was coined by the Irish economist and philosopher Francis Edgeworth at the end of the 19th century to describe "an ideal instrument for continuously measuring an individual's degree of pleasure".

(Source: Reuters Agency and AFP) 

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