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Social network profiles as taste performances

This study examines how a social network profile's lists of interests--music, books, movies, television shows, etc.--can function as an expressive arena for taste performance. By composing interest tokens around a theme, profile users craft their "taste statements." First, socioeconomic and aesthetic influences on taste are considered, and the expressivity of interest tokens is analyzed using a semiotic framework. Then, a grounded theory approach is taken to identify four types of taste statements--those that convey prestige, differentiation, authenticity, and theatrical persona. The semantics of taste and taste statements are further investigated through a statistical analysis of 127,477 profiles collected from the MySpace social network site between November 2006 and January 2007. The major findings of the analysis include statistical evidence for prestige and differentiation taste statements and an interpretation of the taste semantics underlying the MySpace community--its motifs, paradigms, and demographic structures.

Introduction to the semantics of people and culture (editorial preface)

The human-grown semantic web has already proven its great potential. By researching semantic technologies to exploit real-world system usage, to cope with subjectivity, and to enhance interpretation using cultural context, we can create smarter systems to harness and enhance humans" intrinsic semantic productivity.

Of men, women, and computers: data-driven gender modeling for improved user interfaces

In this paper, we tried to gain insights into how men and women perceive day-by-day events, and what they most value in their daily experiences, by looking at a very large number of diary entries extracted from the blogosphere. Our analysis of gender distinctions revealed that women's and men's sensibilities exhibited a particularity-generality dichotomy that swept all dimensions of gender space. Women focused on immediate time, nuanced colors, close-knit relationships, objects describable by size, the flavors of food, and were disposed to happiness and sadness. Men focused on months and years, primary colors, social hierarchies, abstract ideas, food as a tool for sating hunger, and were disposed to anger and arousal. These findings are in general agreement with previous research in gender psychology, but do articulate more specific preferences for factors directly relating to user interface design such as time, color, socialness, sizeability and concreteness, affect, and food (if one is designing a recipe interface, for example).

Unraveling the taste fabric of social networks

Popular online social networks such as Friendster and MySpace do more than simply reveal the superficial structure of social connectedness--the rich meanings bottled within social network profiles themselves imply deeper patterns of culture and taste. If these latent semantic fabrics of taste could be harvested formally, the resultant resource would afford completely novel ways for representing and reasoning about web users and people in general. This paper narrates the theory and technique of such a feat--the natural language text of 100,000 social network profiles were captured, mapped into a diverse ontology of music, books, films, foods, etc., and machine learning was applied to infer a semantic fabric of taste. Taste fabrics bring us closer to improvisational manipulations of meaning, and afford us at least three semantic functions.

Computing Point-of-View: Modeling and Simulating Judgments of Taste

Our capacity for aesthetics and affectedness is one of the most celebrated bastions of humanity. Underlying our explicit knowledge and rationality is a faculty for judgment--the impulsion to prefer, to view the world through our individual lenses of taste. An interesting intellectual question is: can a computer model a person"s tastes, attitudes, and aesthetics richly enough to predict their judgments? This thesis explores one answer to the question. Our investigation flies under the banner of point-of-view for two reasons. Firstly, the term reflects an understanding that individual tastes are seated in, and articulated against a social and cultural fabric. Secondly, "point-of-view" is developed to mean not isolated taste judgments, but rather, a coherent and systematic apparatus that engenders such judgments.

Rendering aesthetic impressions of text in color space

What is an artwork and how could a machine become artist? This paper addresses the provocative question by theorizing a computational model of aesthetics and implementing the Aesthetiscope--a computer program that portrays aesthetic impressions of text and renders an abstract color grid artwork reminiscent of early twentieth century abstract expressionism. Following Dewey's psychological interpretation of "aesthetic" and Jung's ontology of fundamental psychological functions, we theorize that a viewer finds an artwork moving and satisfying because it seduces her into rich evocations of thoughts, sensations, intuitions, and feelings. The Aesthetiscope embodies this theory and aims to generate color grids paired with inspiration texts (a word, a poem, or song lyrics), which can be received as aesthetic and artistic by a viewer. The paper describes five Jungian aesthetic readers which are together capable of creative narrative understanding, and three color-logics that employ psycho-semantic principles to render the aesthetic readings in color space. Evaluations of the Aesthetiscope revealed that the program is best at portraying intuition and feeling, and that overall, the Aesthetiscope is capable of creating the aesthetic of art based on an inspiration text in a non-arbitrary way.

Self-reflexive performance: dancing with the computed audience of culture

Typically performance is a display for others, and is time-limited. But if we also regard everyday life as a performance, we see that it is a continuous improvisation--a multi-faceted dance with an audience that is our social and cultural milieu. In moments of self-reflection, we ourselves motivate this performance, seizing these occasions to explore and debate our relationship to culture and our reflexive situation within it. This article introduces a digitally mediated framework for real-time self-reflexive performance, called the Identity Mirror. Here, the audience is a computational model of culture himself--his moods complex and shifting constantly according to daily happenstance. The mirror shows the performer her dynamic and panoptic reflection against culture, which she can negotiate through dance. The article goes on to unravel the politics of self-reflexive performance--exploring the ideas of cultural persona, facets, and shadows, and gestating a future where these performances can be sustained as a daily dialogic, and co-performances can be had amongst friends.

Synesthetic Recipes: foraging for food with the family, in taste-space

This paper presents a new answer to one very old question, "What's for dinner?" Synesthetic Recipes is a graphical interface which allows a person to brainstorm dinner recipe ideas by describing how they imagine the recipe should taste (e.g. "hearty, mushy, moist, aromatic"); to keep mindful of the tastebuds of family members, on-screen avatars anticipating their reactions to recipes enrich the brainstorm with just-in-time family"s feedback. The forager clicks on a recipe suggestion, the recipe text is rendered with semantic highlighting such that the essence of their query is intelligible at-a-glance -- e.g. you searched for spicy, and now, all the spicy ingredients are highlighted in this recipe view. Of course, deciding what to make for dinner cannot occur in a social vacuum, as the tastes of family members need to be.

The aesthetiscope: visualizing aesthetic readings of text in color space

Moorman & Ram"s revolt against the grain of the classical AI narrative understanding literature emboldens us in our task of aesthetic reading, which is the topic of this paper. Aesthetic reading is not reading purely for information. It is an emotionalized and personal reading, whereby the text"s primary purpose is to evoke aesthetic rumblings within the reader. Reading theorist Louise Rosenblatt states, "In aesthetic reading, the reader"s attention is centered directly on what he is living through during his relationship with that particular text" (Rosenblatt, 1978, p. 25); but this notion of "living through" can be quite a complex amalgamate of perceptions and sensations.

InterestMap: harvesting social network profiles for recommendations

Another confluence feature is a taste clique. Visible in Figure 2, for example, we can see that "Sonny Rollins," is straddling two cliques with strong internal cohesion. While the identity descriptors are easy to articulate and can be expected to be given in the special interests category of the profile, tastes are often a fuzzy matter of aesthetics and may be harder to articulate using words. For example, a person in a Western European taste-echelon may fancy the band "Stereolab" and the philosopher "Jacques Derrida," yet there may be no convenient keyword articulation to express this. However, when the InterestMap is learned, cliques of interests seemingly governed by nothing other than taste clearly emerge on the network.

Articulation, the letter, and the spirit in the aesthetics of narrative

We posed the aesthetics of narrative as problematics of articulation, the letter, and the spirit. We established the letter as the agency of social language, of the explicit, known, mundane, habituated, and thus, unaesthetic. In contrast, the spirit is the agency of the aesthetic; it is an amorphous, anomic space that is alive with meaning, fraught with creative tension, and home to the unarticulated, unarticulatable, mystified, sacred, and mythical. Whereas the letter is socially constructed and maintained, the spirit arises out of the personal and collective unconscious, its chief vehicle to the realm of the conscious being through the agency of intuition.