AI makes us slack

by stronged



An interesting article in Sunday’s Age (the full version can be found here), exploring the idea that the search engines and other artificial intelligence software packages that are becoming much more common these days are impacting on our own thought processes in a negative way. We are no longer asking why the search engine has found that particular information, instead, we are asking what it is. The statistical probability AI systems rely upon to come to their conclusions can be skewed, especially in personalised searches, as you can see in the above example.

I feel this relates to my research in the broad scheme of things. How we categorise data dictates how it will be accessed. Whether a folksonomy, taxonomy or associated relations, the way in which we “code” the sparse distributed representations of the information determines the form it will take within the system/software (i.e. how you will be able to access it).

The different combinations data assembles in defines your experience of it, an “organic narrativity” emerges from the raw information. The more you interact with the data the better understanding you can achieve, as you begin to understand how the information has been categorised/filed away in this system of operation. In Korsakow, understanding the keywords used to categorise the video files (SNU’s) will reveal the premise of the project. The keywords that are harder to find require more time to map out the commonalities and “contours” (Bernstein) of the work.

I am at the point where I feel I must switch hats and pull together the other Lit Review necessary for my exegesis and research. This involves revisiting the research I have previously done on interactive documentaries (idocs) and re-orientating the themes to suit my major research project. I feel I must first flesh out some of the similarities I see idocs have with placemaking. Put another way, how creating an idoc of a place will represent a more holistic depiction than a conventional, linear documentary ever could.

Here are some of the similarities I can think of off the cuff:

  • How the content is experienced dictates how it will be filed and therefore accessed

As briefly touched upon in my comments above, how we categorise either the facets we encounter in a space, or the video clips we SNU’ify in Korsakow determines the various sequences the information will make within our mind (as is the case with placemaking) or the K-Film. When we understand the connections made between each piece of information we begin to understand the form of the place or K-Film. By form, I do not mean a fixed structure. Rather, a dynamic set of behaviours that governs the various permutations the information will sequence in. As this idea of form is variable, both placemaking and K-Films share a kaleidoscopic quality that is impossible to pin-down into a clear definition. Hence the density, and complexity of placemaking.

  •  “Routes rather than roots” (Massey)

The form of placemaking and K-Films is modulated by a series of flows or routes that step in and out of operation within the our conception of a place or a k-film. These flows can be seen as particular themes or categorise that can reoccur in the sequence as a motif or manifest in different forms. The tagging cloud Korsakow employs when you designate a keyword to a video clip acts as a particular route that can make up one of the major flows of a K-Film.

Similarly, one of a hospitals main routes could be seen as it’s sterile features (i.e. disposable bins for syringes; disinfectants; flat, clean, white surfaces, etc.) that is a particular defining aspect of it’s placeness. Therefore, routes and flows are governed by how the information is categorised in the first place. Considering the descriptions/keywords we use of particular experiences change over time due to perceiving them in different circumstances, this impacts upon how the routes function within the sequence of place or k-films.

  • Musicality

Correlations can be made between the form a k-film takes and a piece of music. I also see this similarity in how we construct places. All three modalities we use (in the context of this post i condense the five senses we use to experience places to the one modality, the other two obviously are nonlinear audiovisual for K-Films and audio for music) depend upon a rise and fall of information in an ongoing process of becoming.

A brief description of becoming from my draft exegesis:

Becoming is a term often used to indicate the time it takes for raw stimulus – often physical objects or behaviours – to become a stable, “fixed” impression within one’s own consciousness. In the case of placemaking, Cresswell uses this term to explain the process of making a space populated with unidentified objects, into a place of meaning populated with significant objects. Significant in the respect of having been experienced, and from this experience a relationship has formed between perceiver and object.

As a gross simplification, we experience music in both a qualitative and quantitative sense. The former when an exacting note has been reached that truly resonates with us. The latter when a chorus or similar melody is repeated within the one piece to illustrate it’s significance or establish a closer bond between narrative and perceiver/user.

The depth of quality reached with a single note can be seen to signify how we spatially interpret music whereas the repetitive nature of a chorus utilizes the temporality of the narrative world. Both of these channels within the modality of music function in quite unique ways, generating the form the piece takes and thus instigating the assemblage of meaning the perceiver/user comes away with.

Claude Lévi-Strauss characterized music as “le langage moins le sens” (language minus meaning) (Mythologique 579) (Tarasti, 283), an intriguing view that sums up the openness of music. We can affix our own meaning to particular melodies, interpreting them whichever way we like. Of course, there is a language of music, certain notes and tones denoting particular meanings, but the sequence that comes into being assembles to mean whatever the listener interprets it to mean.

I see this same becoming of a meaning, a poiesis if you will, analogous to k-films and placemaking. Poiesis denotes a “revealing” of something. Differing from the Greek term Praxis, which means the act of doing, Poiesis is often used to articulate what the Praxis has created – the instance of an artefact evoking a meaning or sensation. To follow on with this trend of Greek terminology, a poiesis normally initiates an epoch – something that is given and retained. Significant experiences normally encourage an epoch to arise that solidifies gnosis (“to know” or “knowing”).

I digress.

The form of k-films and placemaking is similar music in the way that all three initiate and act out a similar type of becoming. 

  • Seamon’s “Place-Ballet” is similar to the rhythm you initiate in K-Films by selecting and experiencing different length SNU’s

The rhythm of becoming can be explained in Seamon’s schema body-ballet = time-space routines = place-ballets (Cresswell, 34). The habitual routines we act out on a day-to-day basis sequentially link together to form a time-space routine, where several activities/interactions with the environment we are in creates a routine. As we are exposed to the multifaceted nature of the place within any given routine, we establish a relationship with the place. Seamon believes that every time we perform these routines we are creating place-ballets, initiating multiple flows of interactivity to create a networked sense of place.

  • A sequence/assemblage that relies upon motion (space) and pause (place) (Tuan, 8)

Tarasti describes becoming as breaking into two separate categories.

In musical terms, Becoming is realised by the symbiotic relationship of what Tarasti calls the two modalities of music: “being” and “doing.” As he describes it, ‘Being means a state of rest, stability, and consonance; doing is synonymous with musical action: event, dynamism, and dissonance’ (Tarasti, Narrative Across Media, 296). Both play an important role in how we experience music and also K-Films. He goes on to say that the ‘alternation between tension, doing, and de-tension, being, forms a tiny “narrative” program, or, to speak metaphorically, a kind of “organic narrativity” (Italics mine, Ibid).

If we were to expand on Seamon’s schema of place being a ballet of flows and routines, we can see that the moments of pause in a dance sequence is the Being, whereas the instances of activity are the Doing. The tension and de-tension within a dance routine creates a rhythm to the dance that allows a form to emerge. Applying famed humanist geographer Tuan’s framework to this analogy we can see how the dancer in motion is transitory and therefore cannot be properly defined (symbolising space). However, when the dancer pauses, they orientate themselves in a space and thus establish a place.

  • Materiality-Meaning-Practice

All three modalities rely upon the motor schema of interaction and reflection. For this to occur there must first be a material facet to interact with. Next, a praxis that engages with that facet. And finally, reflection in order to evaluate the outcome(s) of the praxis.

  • If place can be seen as a ‘container of experiences’ (Casey quoted by Cresswell, 86), space can be viewed as an empty container. By this rationale, an interface offers the same opportunity to construct experiences/narratives from an “empty” space.

There are two sides to an idoc. As it exists within a web browser the same principles apply to that of any other type of web page. There is a front-end and a back-end. The front exhibiting the interface and the virtual facets that the user can interact with. The back-end storing the data and the algorithms or system of behaviours that govern how the project reacts to user interactions. As the raw information is hidden from view, in the back-end of the website, the interface can be seen as an empty space whereby interactions with the virtual facets reveals these experiences into an assemblage that informs the user what form the project takes. By understanding the form the user gleans an insight into the premise or essence of the project and how it can fit together in a variety of ways to produce a place.

All three modalities (music, placemaking and k-films) all rely upon gauging what form the information takes. The form is governed by how the information has originally been categorised within a closed system (the duration of a musical piece, a locale, or a k-film project); as a folksonomy, taxonomy, etc. The connections that are made between each piece of information creates a network of interrelated data that are in a constant state of readjustment and categorisation. This is why making a k-film about placemaking will portray the multifaceted nature and the changeable form of place.