Weaving Worlds

Winding through biological complexity, prehistoric beliefs and contemporary science we find a timeless and timely web of resonances. Across disciplines the Nonhuman Turn emerges, decentering the human and uncovering unexpected and unconsidered outcomes. Questions of interrelations between objects and organisms open a vast space of creative discourse. The melted permalinks become kindling for the emergence of complexity in its infinite organic and inorganic permutations. In this liminal space, we find opportunities for inter-weaving human and nonhuman worlds to practice our tools for cohabitation.

Including a nonhuman logic into the writing process acts as a provocation that such insight is valuable, and that purely human thinking may not achieve such different and unexpected outcomes. It is worth emphasising these two elements, different and unexpected, as opposed to efficient, productive or intelligent, the buzzwords usually associated with artificial intelligence (AI). Opaque and remote, transparent and immanent, AI’s are the neoliberal control mechanism du jour used as means to model and abstract persons, manipulate and divide communities and mediate and reify social relationships. By reorienting these tools we embody the critique through which emergent trajectories can be envisaged.

The nonhuman mediator is a machine learning algorithm that synthesises new thematic connections between texts by revealing latent semantic patterns. The algorithm is the skip-gram version of word2vec. Vector Space Models (VSMs) such as word2vec represent objects, in this case words, as indexes and their syntactic relations as vectors.

The Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA) they afford generates a reading that is alien to humans. These insights are impossible to find by hand and obscured by readers patterned by human languaging processes. This is a paradoxical perspective of being post-language and pre-human. In the reduction of human language to numbers-in-space the VSM looks for meaning on the informational level. Yet as we have started with human language our numbers and spaces are only the vectors of thought bound by the syntactic structures of human language.

As the Nonhuman Turn questions the source of intelligence and dissolves the dualism of natural and artificial, we use the term AI for its value as a cultural shorthand rather than its conceptual rigour. As flexible as our understandings of what both human and nonhuman intelligence is or can be, these will undoubtedly co-evolve alongside and in relation to one another. Languaging the worlds we are designing for is entangled with our own thinking. Thus, we refer to the nonhuman mediator as weaver and the process of working with it weaving.

Weaving is described as the process of interlacing threads to form a texture, fabric or design, “mak[ing] a complex story or pattern from a number of interconnected elements” and “to form by combining various elements or details into a connected whole” to mention a few. The versatility of the word is articulated in its synonyms such as entwine, contrive, construct, compose, entangle, interlace, intermix, intermingle, knit etc.

Historically, we are inspired by the Jacquard Loom, that enabled the production of unlimited varieties of pattern weaving by adding punched cards to control an array of operations. This ability later inspired Charles Babbage to
use program-storing cards in his Analytical Engine. We suggest that just as the material practicality of industrial weaving inspired early ICTs, the metaphor when applied to a wider form of multispecies and multidirectional weaving could inspire developments of new ways of designing.

The weaving of languaging encourages heteroglossia. Occurring when a “novel is constructed from a diversity of styles and voices, assembled into a structured artistic system which arranges difference in a particular way”, heteroglossia also refers to differing viewpoints or opinions.

Stemming from the dynamics of symbiosis, we apply heteroglossia as a form of linguistic diversity, nurturing individual as well as collective writing and their inter-relation. We think of individual ‘making’ of thoughts and words as autopoiesis (‘self-creation’) and collective ‘making’ as sympoiesis (‘collective creation’).

Weaving Worlds is divided into three main iterations, each split up into three indivi-dual pieces. After the first two iterations the weaver analyses the texts to spot the latent inter-relations. These continue to inspire the next round of individual writings. Furthermore, the weavings work as gathering points for collective sharing of ideas.