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A Translogical Meshwork of Thoughts

"A Translogical Meshwork of Thoughts, Daniela Alina Plewe: Muser's Service (1995-96)" is an article by Andreas Broeckmann.

Your mind is wandering. You're relishing that happy state of semi-consciousness in which the thoughts are free from controlled reasoning. This temporary freedom of the day-dreamer is a good precondition for enjoying the service offered by Daniela Alina Plewe's piece, the Muser's Service. It provides a model as well as an instrument for the day-dreaming m/user and guides him or her through a multi-dimensional space of potentiality and contemplation. Since November 1995, the Service has been available on the World Wide Web where it can now be used and extended as a genuine network project.

Input

Muser's Service is a computer-based network structure of concepts and associations which are interlinked through a great variety of logical operations. The user can add new concepts to the meshworked data base, specify their properties (love is desirable, painful, boring, etc.), and define the links (methods of interconnection) between new or already existing concepts. Thus, users can choose whether, for instance, they want to affirm that love is the opposite of hate, that it is the 'result' or a 'necessary property of', or perhaps 'similar to' hate. The initial input by the artist and by earlier users is progressively extended, and the Service now represents a complex structure which the user can draw on for a computer aided musing session.

Request

The request is supported by a simple interface which asks the user to make the necessary choices: what is the start concept (e.g. civilisation), what is the goal (e.g. passion), and what are the preferred methods of association (e.g. conjunction, disjunction, identity, similarity, rhyme, convention). The methods determine the type of links between concepts which the computer will then preferably trace. Let's try this one:

START: anxiety
GOAL: adventure
PREFERRED METHODS OF ASSOCIATION: coexistence

Output

The computer processes this request and, after a few seconds, comes up with a text that represents one possible trace through the network structure of concepts and qualified links. The resulting text is based on a simple, dislodged syntax and offers a series of predictable as well as surprising conjunctions of concepts that it passes through along the selected track.

anxiety and unhappy people are not always surviving is a goal could be power guarantees wealth similar to imagination is luck is temptation condemned by education is the base of culture opposed to nature is pain transferred into fear spoils freedom ...

Just as in the day-dreamer's flow of consciousness the reader hovers along the text on a meandering pathway through a meshwork of possible associative links. The path taken is neither fixed nor arbitrary, but based on the input by the present and earlier m/users, the concepts they have chosen and the logical and a-logical links they have laid between them.

... freedom is a dream inspires creativity makes money creates happiness happiness achieves pride as stupidity can't make a star has achieved some outstanding performance within society develops stress opposed to sublimity along with technoeuphoria ...

A labyrinth of ideas has been created by people from different social and cultural backgrounds, and we are guided through this labyrinth along the subjective and inter-subjective choices that the m/users have collectively made.

... technophoria misleads future based on boldness irritates people are delivered to death liberating soul feels trouble solvable by modesty optimizes efficiency is supported by machine without description as a kind of beauty after adventure

Extension

The Muser's Service and its forerunners were first installed on a computer terminal and presented at art centres and public exhibitions in, amongst other places, Rostock, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Warsaw, Leipzig and New York. The initial author's version has, in the course of these consecutive presentations, slowly been extended and submerged in a multitude of concepts and logical links laid by later m/users.

The version that is now running on the World Wide Web broadens the scope of the project immensely. Access to the Muser's Service is no longer restricted to the localised presentations, but is open to the entire community of Web users. They are invited to participate in the building of a much larger associative structure in which the determining role of particular languages for the formation of associative fields, as well as the latters' cultural specificity, will lead to ever newer, ever more complex invitations for musing about the major and minor philosophical questions of everyday life. The concepts can, moreover, be hyperlinked to other pages on the World Wide Web, so that a term like 'complexity' can be linked to sites dealing with mathematical compexity theory, or 'machine' to research sites dealing with robotics or the history of engineering.

START: civilisation
GOAL: happiness
PREFERRED METHODS OF ASSOCIATION: coexistence, alternative, contrast
RUN: civilisation is creative and fascinating as adventure is arousing, always new, nearly everywhere and useful as Computer Aided Brainstorming is hard to accept and helpful as dissappointment reduces happiness

Associative Intelligence

The Muser's Service represents a practical attempt at addressing some of the questions that haunt discussions about Artificial Intelligence. It suggests a way of operationalising a quasi-logical structure of associative networks by creating a multi-dimensional conceptual space through which the system lays pathways on the basis of pre-configured relations.

START: life
GOAL (SPECIFIED BY PROPERTIES): highly desirable, always new, hard to get
PREFERRED METHODS OF ASSOCIATION: cause-effect, means-end, contrast, action, similarity
RUN: life causes trouble creates uneasy feelings opposed to passion is an adventure without obedience often brings comfort is danger sometimes leads to despair can be lack of courage due to anxiety after disappointment about love and sexual activities with breasts are similar to udder belong to cows are part of nature opposed to civilisation is a kind of efficiency is supported by maschine made by humans with outstanding performance aiming for progress is important for happiness

What appears like a semi-controlled delirium includes two important experiments with the structure of logical systems. Firstly, it is possible to request a search not only between two directly defined concepts, but the start and goal concepts can also be chosen indirectly by defining the properties which they should have (like 'hard to get', 'highly desirable', or 'unpleasant'). A Thesaurus-inspired search engine will look for a concept with the chosen properties and will use this as the start or goal concept. As a second feature, it is possible for the machine to create new associative connections when it realises that certain concepts have related properties, ie that one is similar to, or an abstraction or specification of the other (... is red as is ...; ... is red therefore colourful ...; ... colourful possibly green ...). Such associative links could so far only be made by humans, but the Muser's Service allows the computer programme to join the collective effort of associative weaving.

Muser's Service proposes a model for the fluidity of thought, and forms an attempt to investigate the rules of that fluidity. It allows for the generation of a simulacrum of what in human intelligence we call associative pondering.

Reflection

For the individual user this means that he or she is encouraged to reflect about associative relations between chosen concepts, some of which may be experienced as simply appropriate and true, others which are new and inspiring, and yet other relations which are completely alien to the m/user. The Service thus simultaneously simulates an associative process, and it causes the m/user to inspect his or her own associative map. Which are the particular, preferred associative links we tend to make between certain concepts, how are these links experienced by people with a different conceptual map, and how do we get from one idea to the other? Is it in meshworks like these that we actually stumble across what we experience as new ideas? Plewe suggests that, maybe, the Muser's Service offers a kind of computer aided brainstorming, especially when the m/user is given the opportunity to enter, instead of a specific goal concept, a vague description of a direction or of the characteristics which the goal 'specified by properties' ought to have, and when the Service 'automatically' homes in on an appropriate concept.

START: wisdom
GOAL(SPECIFIED BY PROPERTIES): unavoidable, unpleasant PREFERRED METHODS OF ASSOCIATION: similarity, abstraction, specification, means-end, system-generated
RUN: wisdom through machines is difficult, extreme, unavoidable and useful as death is easy to get and unavoidable as stress may cause omissions lead to regret is a kind of pain

Interaction

For the artist, the element of interactivity has been a driving force in the development of the Service, an interactivity which does not only offer the choice within a given structure, but the opportunity to extend the conceptual contents themselves. The m/user is asked to add to the list of concepts and to refine or add to the links between them, and in this he or she is again encouraged to reflect on the way certain ideas might be classified and placed within a given structure - and is perhaps invited to probe the limits of the classificatory exercises which play such an important role in computer usage.

START: choice
GOAL: time
PREFERRED METHODS OF ASSOCIATION: cause-effect, system-generated
RUN: choice threatened by contradictions lead to irritation is ephemere as opportunities only at one time

The Service meets the artistic challenge of the electronic networks in a variety of ways. It allows for a specific form of collective creativity in which every user can participate in the project whose complexity and wealth depends on this collective effort. At the same time, the project explores the borderline between human thought and machine intelligence: the Service is both fully determined by the human input, and fuelled by a machinic algorithm that inscribes the intuitive associations into a strictly logical structure. It thus plays with notions of chance and determinism, offering an often poetic and surprising experience which hinges on the interface between human collective association and algorithmic structuration. In an anti-surreal gesture we get an impression not of the depths of the unconscious, but of the flickering on the surface of transpersonal intuition. The results are both translogical in that they follow no single logic of rationalisation but permit a multitude of logics to govern the path of musing, and they are translocal in that the Service has no fixed location but exists as a representation of a multiplicity of floating thought fragments from the m/users' minds.

Limits

What will the limits of this exploration be? Does day-dreaming have to end? I have a vague feeling that the Muser's Service will eventually fall into a light-hearted state of madness, that it will be confronted with an overload of associative possibilities and that, at one point, it will forget to guide the associative stream in any particular direction, but will let its thoughts roam seamlessly from one field to the other, producing a stream of consciousness that knows no boundaries but only interconnected conceptual nodes which lead to other points from where more possibilities and more trains of thought take their cheerful departure.

At the moment, though, the Muser's Service still finds home ...

START: comfort
GOAL : breasts
PREFERRED METHODS OF ASSOCIATION: similarity, condition , means-end, system-generated
RUN: comfort is dangerous as sex with breasts

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