One thing I like about Perplexity.ai is actually that its results are weird, slightly incoherent, and that it forces you as a result of related/recommended searches down blind alleyways of knowledge (or possibility) which never existed prior.
As a result, you can engage in a kind of cosplay/LARP where as you search for something, you construct edifices of meaning along the way. To be clear, I think that meaning is *always* constructed – out of the bits and pieces we find and embed in our experience: it’s all always bricolage.
Some thoughts from CGPTv4 on bricolage & the construction of meaning, for safekeeping:
Bricolage is a term that originates from the French word “bricoleur,” which loosely translates to a kind of DIY handyman who works with what is at hand, rather than with specialized tools or pre-defined methods. It was notably used by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in “The Savage Mind” (1962), to describe the way in which indigenous people constructed myths by using and recombining available cultural elements.
In terms of constructing meaning, bricolage refers to the practice of creating or constructing meaning by “cobbling together” different, often disparate, elements. These elements may be signs, symbols, cultural practices, discourses, styles, and so on. In the context of cultural studies and media theory, for example, this approach to meaning-making suggests that individuals actively construct their own meanings from the materials (or ‘signs’) available to them in their cultural environment.
This concept is fundamental to many theories of media, culture, and identity. Stuart Hall, a significant figure in cultural studies, suggested that audiences are not just passive recipients of media and cultural texts. Instead, they engage in a process of bricolage to negotiate and construct their own identities and meanings.
(There’s something for me here to that links back to hyperreality, and perhaps the notion that we might equally construct meaning or relevance from bits and bobs across the spectrum of “reality” and its direct representations.)
What I like about Perplexity at the moment is that this process is iterative in short bursts as you hop along the quantum threads of related searches, and for me it feels more transparent than the quasi-authoritative presentation of meaning which ChatGPT attempts to fulfill. There’s something about the chaos of how Perplexity’s UX works that feels right (even if there are a lot of things as a user/product manager I would personally tweak), versus the staid and static quality ChatGPT has.
I like this idea of like, okay we’re going to play a game. We’re not just going to find existing answers to the query that we have. But we’re going to explore alternate realities, and invoke possibly outcomes that haven’t already been mapped. We’re going to do it collaboratively, creatively, and knowing full well that is what we’re doing. That to me feels like the way to preserve human autonomy, ideation, and decision-making in an age where AIs will no doubt increasingly pressure us to conform to their decisions about the world.
More to say on this for sure…