Are You Happy?

What is it that makes us happy – people, things, experiences? What is a happy life in 2010? And how do we balance personal contentment with our relationships and responsibilities to the wider community and the world around us?

I’ve been writing about collaborative projects on this blog and I’m now kicking off one of my own – The “Are You Happy?” Project. During the course of the year I’m going to be asking people to answer the question “Are you happy?” with their comments, ideas and stories, via video, webcam, stills – bringing the responses together to create a composite picture online.

The project is an experiment in collaborative online documentary inspired by “Chronicle of a Summer”, a film made by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin exactly 50 years ago, which begins with a sequence in which diverse people on the streets of Paris give their answers to the question, are you happy? You can read more about the film, Rouch, and the idea of “shared anthropology” that I’m building on in this post.

The project will take place in and explore the potential of social networks for documentary. I’m working with designer Will Richards on the first stage which is based around a call to action in Flickr. The “Are You Happy?” Project will unfold as an iterative process, and we plan to use images from this phase to take the conversation to a wider audience on You Tube later in the Spring.

During the course of the year I’m going to be adopting a range of strategies for getting people involved, and hope to facilitate a wide -ranging conversation about our priorities and values today. Please contribute an image to  the Flickr gallery, or check out the Are You Happy? blog for more information and the latest  developments.