Friday, November 20, 2015

Classification and Romance (again)

I'd pretty much given up on romance ever making sense as a concept, but there's been a new round of posts that's got me thinking again. Let me start with computers and work my way back around to romance.

One cool thing that AIs can do is classify things. You stuff in a bunch of things and go "here, classify these", and the AI groups them together into categories. It won't tell you how it's categorizing them, just make groups. This is useful in a variety of ways, categorization being important to learning about the world and all, and one interesting thing you can do with it is feed in data that humans have already classified and compare our categories to the groups the computer comes up with. For example, one study gave English words to an AI and provided example sentences using those words. The AI came up with groupings that matched our categories of 'noun', 'verb', etc. It would also have been interesting if the AI had come up with a different way of categorizing words. Maybe there's some arching commonality between words like "tree", "vertigo", and "conjugate" that we've never noticed.

This idea of categorizing without labeling is a useful one, and between my AI class and my ace blog readings, something coalesced. What if instead of examining my data (feelings, desires, etc.) against other peoples' definitions of romance, I just looked at all my data and tried to group it into meaningful categories, not worrying about what to call them?

When I did that there was a very obvious group of feelings which stood out. If I apply the name 'romance' to that category, it immediately gives me a rich vocabulary for explaining my experiences. I feel romantic love for Hats and Flowers. That awkward period of time with Flowers was awkward because they felt romantically about me, but I hadn't developed romantic feelings for them yet. I've had crushes. This is very useful.

Or rather, part of it is useful. What's useful about labeling my experiences that way isn't actually the label, it's grouping similar experiences together so I can understand them in the context of one another. The label is only useful if I want to talk about it, but I'm not so sure that 'romance' a good label to use for this category. Romance as a term comes with a lot of assumptions, many of which I don't like. It comes back to the same problem I had before: Are these experiences and feelings close enough to what other people mean by 'romance' that I want to describe them using that word?

I'm trying not to care. Whether that category is best labeled romantic or platonic or something else entirely, it's useful for me just to have identified its existence explicitly. I'll probably come back to worry away at it later. No matter how much I try to be content in my grey area, I always come back to the question "what is this relationship?" and my analytical brain can't stop trying to classify things.

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