This week’s topic on network theory really interests me considering I had a first-hand experience on the 关系 (‘guanxi’) phenomenon in China during my internship. It is also predominant in the country’s most-used mobile app, WeChat, where only friends can see your ‘moments’ (basically stuffs you share onto the platform, similar to Facebook’s statuses). As it often happens, individuals (usually clients) that I just added on my WeChat account are usually acquaintances or friends with my individuals from my contact list. It can be interpreted as: 1. I am the central node, being the common friend who knows both of them, or 2. my friend/client is the central node. This illustrates the uncertainty of humanistic data, where friendships/relationships between people are not easily definable (Winter, 2001).
However, reading Moretti’s article on Network Theory, Plot Analysis brought my attention to this film that was released recently. For everyone who is crazy about HBO comedy Silicon Valley, this is a film starring Thomas Middleditch – a film made for the 48-Hour Film Challenge at the Sci-Fi London festival.
Basically the story is:
“It’s about three people living in a weird future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle. You know it’s the future because H (played with neurotic gravity by Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch) is wearing a shiny gold jacket, H2 (Elisabeth Gray) is playing with computers, and C (Humphrey Ker) announces that he has to “go to the skull” before sticking his face into a bunch of green lights. It sounds like your typical sci-fi B-movie, complete with an incoherent plot.”
It is pretty evident how network theory had been programmed inside the artificial intelligence, named Benjamin, which allowed him to illustrate the various nodes (actors) and the connections (relationships) between them to be able to compose a short film like this. Since the film made use of a relatively sparse network with only three key characters, it is simply easier for the story to be written.
The story, which features a love triangle, features Thomas Middletich as the protagonist. It as mentioned in Moretti’s article the possibility of machine gathering of data and thus how quantification of plots is possible. In the AI that composed this short film, it was actually fed with a dozen of sci-fi screenplays from 1980s and 90s, which then allowed the prediction of potential words and phrases that may follow. This highlighted the presence of clustering – where if A is connected to B, and B to C, then there is a heightened possibility that A will also be connected to C.
To conclude, it seemed like possibilities are endless with the increasing connecting networks we are in. There is no longer “six degrees of separation” (definitely less than that with the proliferation of social networks bringing everyone together). That being said, what are future implications of networks?