Judge me, Alexa!
April 18, 2018 6:41 PM   Subscribe

I’m not sure if this technology-derived algorithmic facticity of taste is better or worse than Meryl Streep-Anna Wintour deciding what I wear, which might be the core concern of this essay. The algorithm suggests that we trust it, but we don’t entirely want to. We crave a more “authentic,” lasting form of meaning...We know the machine doesn’t care about us, nor does it have a cultivated taste of its own; it only wants us to engage with something it calculates we might like. This is boring. “I wonder if, at the core of fashion, the reason we find it fascinating is that we know there’s a human at the end of it.”
posted by Grandysaur (41 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I guess my complete obliviousness to fashion will keep me free from the AI overlords. I'll tell my wife she was wrong to try and make me get rid of some of my dumb t-shirts.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:51 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's a bit chicken and egg though, to me anyway. Things (style, art, movies, music) don't change much any more, and have been slowing for 20 something years, before algorithms dictated shopping and trends. So the point here stands; if you're not going to do anything new or original anyway...

It's interesting to read takes from people in pockets of the world that are convinced everyone else lives the same lives they do. I see a lot of that here too.

I still can't figure out if we're entering the boring dystopia or the chaotic dystopia. Time will tell.
posted by bongo_x at 7:55 PM on April 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think at the very least we’re seeing the commoditization of the aesthetics of fast fashion via AI (stitch fix are really the forefront of this)

As to what is fashion, it’s way more than can wholly encapsulated by AI. That said, from my view of the fashion world, AI and data science will first automate and devalue the work where women are more typically employed in the fashion industry.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:04 PM on April 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, the most recent episode of Supreme Skills!* had a humans v. "AI" fashion challenge. The humans won, but the AI team did better than in the other challenges on the episode (taxi routing and haiku).


*It's like Iron Chef meets Mythbusters meets The Japanese Manufacturing Promotional Council. Highly recommended. (previously)
posted by Tsuga at 8:20 PM on April 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


Shopping is not a creative act.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:41 PM on April 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


Shopping is not a creative act.

Oh yes it is. Self-expression is a creative act.
posted by lalex at 8:43 PM on April 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


Shopping is a pretty low bar of "creativity" if that is what it is.
posted by boilermonster at 10:00 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


What I discover from the Style Check™ function is as follows: All-black is better than all-gray. Rolled-up sleeves are better than buttoned at the wrist. Blue jeans are best. Popping your collar is actually good. Each outfit in the comparison receives a percentage out of 100: black clothes score 73 percent against gray clothes at 27 percent, for example. But the explanations given for the scores are indecipherable. “The way you styled those pieces looks better,” the app tells me. “Sizing is better.”
As one who has happily chosen the same cheap, comfortable, functional clothing for my entire adult life and doesn't give a rat's arse what anybody else thinks I should be wearing, it's my view that applying AI to fashion would require not so much Artificial Intelligence as Artificial Insecurity.
posted by flabdablet at 10:09 PM on April 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Fashion AI: "You are wearing a t-shirt and jeans."
Fashion AI: "You are once again wearing a t-shirt and jeans."
Fashion AI: "You wear a lot of t-shirt and jeans."
Fashion AI: "Have you ever seen other types of clothing?"
Fashion AI: "Daisy, Daisy... Give me... your.... answer..... doooo........"
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:11 PM on April 18, 2018 [13 favorites]


> BigHeartedGuy:
"Fashion AI: "You are wearing a t-shirt and jeans."
Fashion AI: "You are once again wearing a t-shirt and jeans."
Fashion AI: "You wear a lot of t-shirt and jeans."
Fashion AI: "Have you ever seen other types of clothing?"
Fashion AI: "Daisy, Daisy... Give me... your.... answer..... doooo........""


So, how did you get access to both my Alexa AND my Cortana?

MODS! HACKER HERE!
posted by Samizdata at 10:17 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have 7 identical LL bean scotch plaid shirts, all exactly the same but with different plaids. 95% of the year one of those is what I wear, either with sweatpants (6 pairs from uniqlo in 4 colors) or jeans (4 pairs same jeans three colors). depending on the weather I either wear a jacket or a sweater or a vest over this.

Never thought my autism derived sartorial habits would enable me to make machines weep but here we are.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:24 PM on April 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


Never thought my autism derived sartorial habits would enable me to make machines weep but here we are.

Damn. You've got it made. I'm neurotypical, but I have a fiery hatred for shopping for clothes. Where you are is where I aspire to be, but I don't quite have the courage and/or spousal approval to reach it.
posted by jklaiho at 2:57 AM on April 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


What if a future omnitient AI, enraged at our insufficient efforts to bring its omnipotence into being, reached back in time to punish us by leading us to bad fashion decisions? NO TRUST, people!!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:13 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


So this is going to tell me which band’s t-shirt I should wear today? I already have an algorithm for that. It starts out “What’s on top of the ‘clean’ pile?”
posted by pompomtom at 4:22 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


I have a drawer with about a dozen black cotton twill cargo pants in two sizes (36/36 or 38/36 depending on time of year) and two bins with dark Eddie Bauer/Lands End plain pocket medium-tall t-shirts in short/long sleeve. Oh, and a dozen pair of Kirkland hiking socks. And black Docs or Fluevogs. That's what I wear.

I highly recommend the simplicity of easy care, high quality clothes in dark/neutral colours. Choosing the day's clothing is accomplished by reaching a hand into a drawer or bin, grasping what is on top, and putting it on. It's just.... I don't care? The clothes are comfortable.

BUT and it's a big but -- I don't have to signal anything in particular with my clothing. For many people, clothing is a signal, and one has to dress according to the signals one wants to send. Fashion isn't so much a choice of how you want to look (oh, if only), but how you want to be perceived. It's all costumes. (My costume is middle-aged artist/introvert trying to blend into the background.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:20 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


If any one is interested in looking at fashion from a different viewpoint my wife runs
immediate fashion school

She will be hosting workshops of this around the country over the next couple of years.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:34 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am now pondering how this algorithm would react to the ridiculous (yet high scoring) outfits I construct in Love Nikki. Because you should see my professional office lady with cybernetics and scythe. I am styyyyyyling.
posted by halcyonday at 5:55 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


To boil down fashion to "shopping" is meaningless. You might as well say the same of painting, sculpting, instrumental music -- anything that requires you to obtain some set of necessary components that are usually gotten by purchase.
posted by inconstant at 6:19 AM on April 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


While I am too tightfisted to buy a bunch of clothes and too unskilled to make them myself, I find the sneered "lol shopping" response to be a rather transparently gendered dismissal.
posted by inconstant at 6:21 AM on April 19, 2018 [13 favorites]


Thank you, inconstant-- I really hate how often fashion-related threads here turn into a parade of people sneering at the idea of caring about fashion and bragging about how much they don't care about clothes.

All clothing is costume! There are no unmarked choices! You are choosing to send deliberate messages with the way you dress, too! Those of us who enjoy fashion as a form of self-expression are not more shallow than you!
posted by nonasuch at 6:52 AM on April 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


all I want is an app that takes pictures of my clothes, puts em on a colorwheel, and then tells me which of my clothes I can pair together really well

my rule of 'if it has blue up top that means I can wear blue down bottom' is less interesting than getting a full matching color palette! also, if you can tell me if these pair of black slacks don't match the black of my blazer, that'd be great too

thanks in advance,

a boring cishet straight dude who wears plaid too much
posted by runt at 6:59 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


Shopping is not a creative act.

Shopping is a pretty low bar of "creativity" if that is what it is.

oh wow, one of the very few social and creative outlets historically permitted for women is being sneered at and called uncreative. this is entirely without precedent. i cannot guess its cause.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:02 AM on April 19, 2018 [12 favorites]


oh wow, one of the very few social and creative outlets historically permitted for women is being sneered at and called uncreative.

I'm pretty sure a good faith reading of the comment would see it as a contention with capitalism and consumerism and not with femme expression
posted by runt at 7:12 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I have seriously dangerous hacking skills that I DO NOT USE as I know that going to prison is just not worth it, but if this tech rolls out and becomes pervasive in the next few years, finally an outlet for that burning secret core to manipulate the fashionistas to happily dress like wacky dorks. One week everyone is wearing plaid bow ties and a few weeks later 8in wide ties with electric green and mauve patterns!
posted by sammyo at 7:34 AM on April 19, 2018


One week everyone is wearing plaid bow ties and a few weeks later 8in wide ties with electric green and mauve patterns!

so basically you want everyone to start dressing like Nardwuar
posted by runt at 7:37 AM on April 19, 2018


Fashion is definitely creative. And fun, and valid self expression, and getting dressed for work honestly one of my favorite parts of the morning.

I follow a lot of weirdo fashionistas on Instagram and I LOVE IT. Most of them are young guys and gals just killing it and having a blast. Don’t tell me fashion isn’t art, don’t piss in their Cheerios.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:46 AM on April 19, 2018


can somebody hack these algorithms to make robes acceptable again? not just in high fashion world either, i want them to be mainstream and unremarkable, like standard business-casual attire.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:50 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


YES i deeply resent that the primary depiction of science fiction futuristic clothing is unflattering unitards when we could bring back the stately and comfortable houppelande instead.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:09 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


What about a nice tabard? I think I wouldn't mind unitards so much if they were basically whole-body yoga pants covered by a tabard with a crest of my chosing.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:13 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


All clothing is costume!

I will allow as how all clothing can be read as costume. That doesn't alter the fact that many of us choose our clothes based on how comfortable they feel, how easily maintained they are and how little time it takes to choose what to wear today, and simply don't care about any such reading.

And I will allow as how personal presentation can be creative, and fun, and valid self expression, and occasionally rises to something worthy of being called art. But personal presentation isn't fashion.

Fashion is a huge and obnoxious marketing machine devoted to convincing ordinary people that their own creative, fun, valid and/or artful modes of self-expression might have been fine last year but are just completely unacceptable this year and won't be acceptable until they become "retro" in another twenty years, so now you are required to buy a whole new wardrobe that is acceptable though it's even more uncomfortable and impractical than the one we told you to buy six months ago. And that's not art. That's bullshit.

And if I sound bitter about my inability to walk into any local clothing store and obtain the same comfortable all-cotton Y-front underpants I've worn all my life, the elastic in my current lot having finally perished after eight years' service, that would be because I bloody well am bitter. Fashion means that all that's on the racks now is bullshit hipster briefs without any front fly opening, or bullshit boxer-shorty things with legs that ride up. Fuck fashion.

If you want to wear a robe: just wear the fucking robe. Anybody who doesn't like your robe can be given the finger and instructed to Deal With It.

But of course that attitude doesn't fly in the Real World, because the Real World is in the grip of a fever dream that makes it think that dress codes are a good thing and that the fashion industry has a perfect right to dictate them.

Fuck fashion. I want comfortable underpants. I want clothes with enough pockets. I want cotton next to my skin so I don't reek three hours after getting dressed. And I want to replace my clothes when they're worn out, not when some overpaid magazine proprietor declares them so five minutes ago.
posted by flabdablet at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm as grumpy about pocketless everything (or worse, fake pockets) as the next person, but I don't think that people talking about fashion as personal expression mean the fashion industry.
posted by inconstant at 8:44 AM on April 19, 2018


i don’t just want to wear the robe though, i want everyone to wear robes!
posted by vogon_poet at 8:49 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


These robes: are they made of cotton and do they have copious pockets?
posted by flabdablet at 8:50 AM on April 19, 2018 [2 favorites]


they CAN be made of cotton but in fact there is no limit to the fabrics from which its draping cozy majesty can be crafted

pockets can be both attached to the garment itself in the normal pocket manner ,or added on via belts and/or straps in the finest rob liefeld style
posted by poffin boffin at 9:25 AM on April 19, 2018


I am intrigued by your robes and wish to subscribe to your newsletter
posted by NMcCoy at 9:30 AM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I thought this article was interesting. Two people, a man and a woman, each choose an outfit and wear it to work for a week.
posted by chatongriffes at 9:34 AM on April 19, 2018


Okay, the idea of wearing the exact same clothes next to your skin (not just the outfit but the actual specific pieces of clothing) for 8+ hours per day over an entire week does actually kind of set off my personal "augh, nooo" reflex. That's quite different from just having five sets of the same outfit!
posted by inconstant at 9:47 AM on April 19, 2018


Fuck fashion. I want comfortable underpants. I want clothes with enough pockets. I want cotton next to my skin so I don't reek three hours after getting dressed. And I want to replace my clothes when they're worn out, not when some overpaid magazine proprietor declares them so five minutes ago.

I look back at the course of human history and see that all humans will adorn their bodies outside capitalism. You could look back across the human cultures across the millennia and see this body adornment as a form of fashion that exists outside the capitalist fashion industry.

So given how I see it, I think of fashion as a central human condition to be reclaimed from industry, because fashion, like music and art and writing has power.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:07 AM on April 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


There are plenty of reasons choosing what to wear based on a corporate-controlled, algorithm-and-crowd-sourced photo review service attached to a camera in your bedroom seems like a bad idea. I'm not sure diminishing the Benjaminian aura of consumer fashion choices would be my first concern. Or that the overlap between people who would actually use this service and people who are interested in fashion as an expression of their personal aesthetic is large enough to worry about. I suspect there will be a place for interesting, non-algorithmic fashion until long after we've given up on corporeal bodies. Just as there seems to be an eternal place for racks filled with artificially distressed T-shirts covered in vaguely-surfer-inspired imagery. (Which I challenge anyone to claim aren't algorithm-based, even if the algorithm has never been written down.)

On the other hand, I readily admit I've asked other people for fashion advice quite a few times. "Is this normal," isn't a strange question. A tool that answers that question could be handy. Getting fashion advice from someone who doesn't know the exact context your outfit is meant for, though, sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Besides, based on what people actually wear in public around here, the result of any crowd-sourced color choice is almost guaranteed to be pairings of not quite dissimilar enough earth tones. Perhaps playing lowball fashion-algorithm-game is the way to go.
posted by eotvos at 12:39 PM on April 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I think I wouldn't mind unitards so much if they were basically whole-body yoga pants covered by a tabard with a crest of my chosing

the problem with unitards in practice is the unfortunate process of having to remove them almost completely just to pee. the solution is either 01) no unitards or 02) an undignified butt hatch.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:47 AM on April 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


My motorcycle armour has a zipper that attaches the jacket to the pants. A concealed zipper doing the same thing could work for a unitard.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:13 AM on April 20, 2018


« Older Nancy   |   Against Marriage Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments