SC9: Me, My Self and AI: Constructing a “Self” in Social-Media


We have long been fascinated by the link between what one is and what one does. The person we see in the mirror may not be the person that others see, and while we are each the hero of our own story, we may well be the villain (or the comic relief) in the stories of others. Our words and our actions reveal us, but they can betray us too, even as we seek to re-invent ourselves on social networks. Can we see ourselves as others see us, and can others know us as we know ourselves? If we can use AI technologies to better understand our own selves, might we also use the same tools to imbue artificial agents in social networks with identifiable personalities and emotionally-coherent “selves” of their own? In this course we shall explore the use of AI to analyze personalities as they are manifest in social networks, whether they are the personalities of real humans or artificial agents. We will see how AI systems can unpack these personality profiles to re-package them anew in creative ways, highlighting some aspects and downplaying others. Since the construction of an online self is fundamentally a process of story-telling in which we shape our own narrative to reveal our own character, we shall look at the construction of self from the perspective of narrative generation. To create a story with compelling characters that behave in ways that show their qualities, we (or an AI) must imagine each character as having a coherent “self” to reveal.
The course will be delivered in four lectures, using slides and supplementary written materials. The latter will comprise chapters from two books: Exploding the Creativity Myth: Computational Foundations of Linguistic Creativity (Veale, 2012) and Twitterbots: Making Machines That Make Meaning (Veale & Cook, forthcoming, MIT Press). All materials will be available online prior to lectures.

Provisional Lecture Titles and Topics (in no special order):
Fifty-Shades of Dorian Gray
Affective analysis & re-packaging, affective selfies, Twitter profiling, satire & the construction of an ironic / sarcastic personality. Types & roles of Twitter selves.
Appointment in Samarra
Character as destiny. Character-building in automated story-telling. Revealing personality by action, dictating action by character. Behaving in character and staying in the loop. Automating the (textual) analysis of character.
Tweet Dreams Are Made of This
Symbols vs. Signs. The dreamwork of language. The Twitter aesthetic. Creating a Twitter self. Building artificial personalities on Twitter. The secret lives of programs. Psychoanalyzing robots and humans in fiction and on the web.
West of Eden
A cross-cutting discussion of issues suggested by the TV show Westworld (e.g. memory and improvisation, bicameral mind, loops and drives) and similar films (e.g. The Stepford Wives). Bicameral parallels in AI & psychology. BDI agents with beliefs, desires and intentions. Agency, passivity and selfness.





Course location


Course requirements


Instructor information.

Tony Veale


Tony Veale is an associate professor in the department of Computer Science
at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland. He has been a researcher in
the areas of Computational Linguistics, Cognitive Science, Cognitive
Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence since 1988, both in industry and
in academia. He obtained a B.Sc (hons) in Computer Science from
University College Cork (UCC) in 1988, and an M.Sc in Computer Science
in 1990, before joining Hitachi Dublin Laboratory in 1990. He received
his Ph.D in Computer Science from Trinity College, Dublin in 1996. He
has divided his career between academia and industry. In the latter, he
has developed text-understanding and machine translation systems for
Hitachi (in particular, the translation of English into American Sign
language, ASL), as well as natural-language-processing tools for the CYC
project in Cycorp at Austin, Texas, and patented web-based
question-answering technology for Intelliseek (Cincinnati, Ohio) and
Coreintellect (Dallas, Texas), where he held the position of Chief
Scientist. During his tenure on the CYC project in Cycorp inc. he
developed a model of analogical reasoning for CYC and contributed to the
DARPA-funded High-Performance-Knowledge-Bases (HPKB) and
Rapid-Knowledge-Formation (RKF) projects. He was, from 2002 -- 2007, the
academic coordinator for UCD's unique international degree programme in
Software Engineering, which UCD delivers in Shanghai at Fudan
university; he continues to deliver courses on this degree. He is the
author of Exploding The Creativity Myth: The Computational Foundations
of Linguistic Creativity (Bloomsbury Academic, 2012) and a founder
member of the international Association for Computational Creativity
(ACC). He organized the ACC's annual conference, The International
Conference on Computational Creativity (ICCC) in UCD in May 2012.