Friday, March 11, 2011

The Social Structure of Language - in video

This is a truly fascinating video by Deb Roy from Ted. Early in the video Deb Roy traces his infant son's process of learning the word "water" in the adult version from his original effort "gaga." Then he goes on to use some of the same video capture and display techniques on the social media conversations connected to an event - the President's State of the Union Speech.

Deb Roy's computers catch the social structures and display them from the event to the myriad responses.

My first response to that is that the social structures and responses seem to be a very close analog to the kinds of structures the human brain creates in laying down memories, connecting them and reacting to and talking about events the person has undergone. Symbolic Interactionism describes the manner in which people react, not to stimuli directly, but rather to mental models they maintain in their mind of how events they perceive are expected to interact. The theory suffers in comparison to psychological theories because SI has been impossible to directly research scientifically. This media technique could well change that.

My second response was that the Sociologist Randall Collins published a second edition to his fascinating and very readable book "Sociological Insight: and Introduction to Non-Obvious Sociology" which included a new* fifth chapter on what it will take to create an artificial intelligence. His statement is that it is more than computer technology or even psychology. It demands a large sociological element. Deb Roy's graphics of social structures of the connections between events and the comments about those events is exactly what Dr. Collins was writing.

*The chapter on artificial intelligence does not appear in the first edition of the book.

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