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Chris Romero (thesis advisor)
Ethan Silverman (thesis advisor)
Bryan Ma (designer)
Parsons the New School for Design. Design & Technology Dept. (sponsoring body)


May 12 2015


Designer's statement: Definitions is an installation exploring the formal qualities of semantic networks, reflecting on computational representation of human experience. Semantic networks like the ConceptNet are one of many tools created to give computers better ways to understand people. The work attempts to utilize this network to pose several questions. What is the tension between the hypothetical outcomes of these tools and their practical, quotidian applications? How does software representation influence or express qualities of human experience? What is our relationship to the quantified, intangible data that we produce, or that is produced for us? Where, when, and how does the immaterial become corporeal? The ConceptNet is an effort to translate human concepts and knowledge into easily computer-understandable forms, and serves as an accessible tool for anyone wanting to utilize it. It organizes words or phrases representing individual concepts into a large graph network where concepts have no attributes in themselves aside from relational connections to other concepts. It is an endeavor to encode human experience into a particular representational structure, and is an example of the attempts to allow computers and humans to understand one another more readily. Simultaneously, the practical output of these kinds of resources can be seen as a means to transform aspects of human experience via computerized quantification – for example, allowing applications to extract points of parsed out, understandable user data to sell for targeted ad revenue. As we find more and more effective ways to translate human experience into computer-friendly forms, what is lost and what is gained? The ConceptNet serves as a staging ground for these tensions in Definitions.



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