The Sociality of Context

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A talk given to the "Social.Path" workshop at the University of Surrey, June 2014.

It is well established that many human abilities are context-dependent, including: language, preference judgement, memory, reasoning, learning and perception. This is usually taken as a negative – that there will be limits on our understanding and modelling of these abilities. However, what is not always appreciated is that context-dependency can be a powerful tool in social coordination and communication. This paper pulls together several theories about the cognition of context, and presents a computational model of context-dependency. It then sketches its role in social communication, coordination and embedding. It looks at some of the approaches to dealing with context in the computer science and social science literature and concludes that none of these squarely faces the problem of context dependency. This points towards a substantial gap in the research and hence a future programme.

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  • AI, NL, Sociology, Philosophy, Mobile devices, Psychology, Cognitive Science
    For detailed argument seem my previous papers on this
    Dustbin Like complexity
    will talk about this problem later
  • Imagine a professor of physics in a wild place – does his intelligence help him to survive?
  • Reader 1980, Man on Earth
  • The Sociality of Context

    1. 1. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 1 The Sociality of Context Bruce Edmonds Centre for Policy Modelling Manchester Metropolitan University
    2. 2. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 2 Talk Outline 1. A bit about Context 2. Context-Dependency in Cognition 3. Context-Dependency and Society 4. An Architecture for Cognitive Context 5. Learning/Identifying Context
    3. 3. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 3 Context • “Context” is used in many different senses across different fields • The senses and concepts herein come from discussions and papers presented at the international series of conferences on “Modelling and Using Context” • Somewhat of a “dustbin” concept resorted to when more immediate explanations fail (like “complexity”!) • Problematic to talk about, as it is not obvious that “contexts” are identifiably distinct
    4. 4. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 4 A (simplistic) illustration of context from the point of view of an actor
    5. 5. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 5 Situational Context • The situation in which an event takes place • This is indefinitely extensive, it could include anything relevant or coincident • The time and place specify it, but relevant details might not be retrievable from this • It is almost universal to abstract to what is relevant about these to a recognised type when communicating about this • Thus the question “What was the context?” often effectively means “What about the situation do I need to know to understand?
    6. 6. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 6 Cognitive Context (CC) • Many aspects of human cognition are context- dependent, including: memory, visual perception, choice making, reasoning, emotion, and language • The brain deals with situational context effectively, abstracting kinds of situations so relevant information can be preferentially accessed • The relevant correlate of the situational context will be called the cognitive context • It is not known how the brain does this, and probably does this in a rich and complex way that might prevent easy labeling/reification of contexts
    7. 7. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 7 The Context Heuristic • The kind of situation is recognised in a rich, fuzzy, complex and unconscious manner • Knowledge, habits, norms etc. are learnt for that kind of situation and are retrieved for it • Reasoning, learning, interaction happens with respect to the recognised kind of situation • Context allows for the world to be dealt with by type of situation, and hence makes reasoning/learning etc. feasible • It is a fallible heuristic… • …so why do we have this kind of cognition?
    8. 8. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 8 An Illustration of the Heuristic Model Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor n Factor n+1 Factor n+2 Etc. Inferences/ predictionsModel Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor n Factor n+1 Factor n+2 Etc. Outcomes Foreground features Later recognition 1. Learning Situation 2. Application Situation Possible abstraction to a ‘context’
    9. 9. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 9 Social Intelligence Hypothesis • Kummer, H., Daston, L., Gigerenzer, G. and Silk, J. (1997) • The crucial evolutionary advantages that human intelligence gives are due to the social abilities it allows • Explains specific abilities such as imitation, language, social norm instinct, lying, alliances, gossip, politics etc. • Social intelligence is not a result of general intelligence, but at the core of human intelligence, “general” intelligence is a side- effect of social intelligence
    10. 10. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 10 An Evolutionary Perspective Social intelligence implies that: • Groups of humans can develop their own (sub)cultures of technologies, etc. (Boyd and Richerson 1985) • These allow the group with their culture to inhabit a variety of ecological niches (e.g. the Kalahari, Polynesia) (Reader 1980) • Thus humans, as a species, are able to survive catastrophes that effect different niches in different ways (specialisation)
    11. 11. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 11 Implications of SIH • That different complex “cultures” of knowledge, skill, habit etc. are significant • An important part of those cultures is how to socially organise, behave, coordinate etc. • One should expect different sets of social knowledge for different groups of people • That these might not only be different in terms of content but imply different ways of coordinating, negotiating, cooperating etc. • That these will relate as a complete “package” to a significant extent
    12. 12. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 12 Social Embedding • Granovetter (1985) • Contrasts with the under- and over-socialised models of behaviour • That the particular patterns of social interactions between individuals matter • In other words, only looking at individual behaviour or aggregate behaviour misses crucial aspects • That the causes of behaviour might be spread throughout a society – “causal spread” • Shown clearly in some simulation models
    13. 13. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 13 Co-Development of Shared Context • Over time certain kinds of situation get recognised as similar by individuals • These individuals may further distinguish it as a specific context • Knowledge is remembered and stored associated with that context • This recognition facilitates the development of a set of shared habits, norms, knowledge, language etc. that is specific to that context • The more this happens the more distinctive that kind of situation becomes and hence more recognisable by newcomers • This self-reinforcing loop can entrench the context and ensure its persistence and identifiability over time
    14. 14. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 14 Social Context • Heavily entrenched contexts may become institutionalised in terms of infrastructure, training etc. (e.g. how to behave in lectures) • Thus easily distinguishable and widely recognised • Socially entrenched contexts can be explictly labelled and talked about • This reification allows the contexts to be further entrenched as it might be demarked and institutionally protected
    15. 15. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 15 Social Advantages of an Ability to (Co)Recognise Context If (broadly and roughly) the same contexts are recognised by different people then… • Communication is easier – assumptions about situation likely to be shared • Terms specific to that kind of situation can be developed focusing on the foreground • Different ways of coordinating can evolve for each different kind of situation, allowing the kind of coordination to be suitable for the situation
    16. 16. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 16 Some Ways in Which Dealing with Context is Avoided by Researchers • Some seek to only consider behaviour that is general (i.e. across context), treating the unexplained variance as noise • Some retreat to only considering behaviour within very specific contexts • Some treat context-specific behaviour as if it is “just more detail”, and so keep to abstract representations to avoid this • Others simply ignore it and hope that more generic representations will do
    17. 17. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 17 Basic Cognitive Model • Rich, automatic, messy, unconscious context recognition using many inputs (including internal ones) – ML • Crisp, conscious, explicit processes using material indicated by cognitive context: reasoning and learning – AI Context Recognition Context-Structured Memory Reasoning/Plan ning Belief Revision/Learnin g
    18. 18. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 18 Context-Dependency Makes Learning and Reasoning Feasible • Context allows us to progress beyond the ‘loose’ loop of: repeat learn/update beliefs deduce intentions, plans and actions until finished • to a more integrated loop of: repeat repeat recognise/learn/choose context induce/adapt/update beliefs in that context deduce predictions etc. within that context until predictions are consistent… and actions/plans can be determined plan & act until finished
    19. 19. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 19 context identification CIS CDM inputs from enviroment or problem actions and/or plans negative feedback if wrong context feedback on under- or over-determination within context update or learning cognitive context LL IS within context reasoning An Implemented Cognitive Architecture Local Learning algorithm Context- Identification System Context-Dependent Memory Inference system
    20. 20. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 20 Example ABM using this Architecture • Artificial Stock Market with market maker and trading costs • Several traded stocks and cash • Fundamentals in form of slow random walking dividend rate for each stock • Agents learn models to predict strategies using a rich GP- like language • Models evaluated over recent time period, then best selected, effect of actions predicted and action selected • Memory a space of market volume vs. volatility where models are ‘placed’ as learnt • Context agents additionally select a region of memory according to current conditions and learn/evaluate/select models according to the currently region of memory • Other agents the same with the whole memory selected
    21. 21. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 21 0 5000 10000 15000 20000 25000 30000 0 100 200 300 400 500 Time TotalValueofAssetsTotal Assets in a Typical Run Black=context, White= non-context
    22. 22. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 22 Example – models in the cognition of a trading agent 700 750 800 850 900 950 750 850 950 Volume - past 5 periods Volatility-past5periods
    23. 23. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 23 The model contents in snapshot of one trader model-256 priceLastWeek [stock-4] model-274 priceLastWeek [stock-5] model-271 doneByLast [normTrader-5] [stock-4] model-273 IDidLastTime [stock-2] model-276 IDidLastTime [stock-5] model-399 minus [divide [priceLastWeek [stock-2]] [priceLastWeek [stock-5]]] [times [priceLastWeek [stock-4]] [priceNow [stock-5]]]
    24. 24. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 24 Other Useful Loops • If there is not enough knowledge to determine action, expand the context scope • If action is over-determined then narrow the scope context identification CIS CDM inputs from enviroment or problem actions and/or plans negative feedback if wrong context feedback on under- or over-determination within context update or learning cognitive context LL IS within context reasoning
    25. 25. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 25 Learning/Recognising Context • Context seems to be recognised in a rich, unconscious and “fuzzy” manner • Using both external (how others behave) and internal (emotions, goals) cues • Some social contexts will have labels but others only indirectly inferable • However, social context should be identifiable by clusters of behaviours, norms, habits etc. all having the same conditions of occurence
    26. 26. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 26 • A possible context is where models that fit different kinds of behaviour have a similar scope • You know you are in the wrong context if many aspects of your knowledge fail simultaneously Clusters of Conditions of Application suggest a Context M1 M2 M1 suggests a context Spaceofpossible conditions
    27. 27. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 27 Cleveland Heart Disease Data Set – the processed sub-set used In processed sub-set: • 281 entries • 14 numeric or numerically coded attributes • Attribute 14 is the outcome (0, 1, 2, 3, 4) • Some attributes: age, sex, resting blood pressure (trestpbs), cholesterol (chol), fasting blood sugar (fbs), maximum heart rate (thalach), number of major vessels (0- 3) colored by flourosopy (ca) • From the Machine Learning Repository
    28. 28. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 28 Fitting a Global Model (R=56%) Num = -0.01*age + 0.17*sex + 0.20*cp + 0.00*trestbps + 0.10*restecg + - 0.01*thalach + 0.23*exang + 0.18*oldpeak + 0.16*slope + 0.43*ca + 0.14*thal + - 0.60 (+/- 0.83)
    29. 29. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 29 Looking for Clusters in HD Data Set (Start of Process)
    30. 30. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 30 Final Set of Clustered Solutions • Final solution set after some time. • Still complex but some structure is revealed • Note presence of “fbs” despite not being globally correlated and that “chol” helped define the context space
    31. 31. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 31 So What? • Human behaviour might be more regular when situations are divided into contexts • Identifying similar context may gives clues as to when regularities can be generalised • Context-sensitivity allows different kinds of coordination for different kinds of situation • Big Data may allow for clues to context • Accepting the complication of context may facilitate a better interface with the social sciences • It may allow for better human-machine interfaces (ones that are less socially inept)
    32. 32. The Sociality of Context, Bruce Edmonds, Social.Path, Surrey, June 2014, slide 32 The End Bruce Edmonds http://bruce.edmonds.name Centre for Policy Modelling http://cfpm.org These slides will be uploaded to: http://slideshare.net/BruceEmonds

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