Alayt Issak

Visualizing Concepts

April 3, 2021   /  

Name: Alayt Issak
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Studio Art
Advisors: Dr. Drew Pasteur, Dr. Subhadip Chowdhury

Critical Digital Engagement Award

My I.S. began with the quest to represent reality, but that was an open-ended topic because you can take a picture through a camera and say that is a visual representation of reality. And so, what I actually wanted to ask was how to understand reality. As a mathematician, my world revolves around concepts and so, I narrowed my scope to the visual representation of concepts. I coupled this quest for understanding with the artist within me (that wanted to create art with my I.S.) to derive my research topic in Cognitive Computational Creativity, where Cognitive corresponds to meaning, Computational corresponds to the algorithm, and Creativity corresponds to art, respectively.

As such, my I.S. asks what it means to understand a concept in a visual format by integrating knowledge or meaning into image generation. I source knowledge from semantic vectors that hold the understanding of words people use in everyday language, and incorporate them into an algorithm known as Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to generate visually indeterminate images for concepts that are obscure to imagine, and question the creativity of the machine in doing so. Having finalized my I.S., indeed the visuals created by the machine are unique, indeterminate and thus creative. However, upon further inquiry, the generated visuals lend themselves to a repetitive template that leads me to question the extent to which creativity exists within a machine. For that reason, although I agree with creativity within the machine, my final answer requires future work to determine this extent.

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Alayt will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

93 thoughts on “Visualizing Concepts”

  1. Congratulations on this beautifully creative and interdisciplinary project, Alayt!

    1. Thank you very much, Prof. Cosgriff. That is exactly what I was aiming for!

  2. Wow, this is really amazing!

    Well done on such an interesting work. I clearly see a person with a wonderful future with great contribution to the sector.

    A well deserved congratulations Alayt! Very proud of you

  3. This looks so cool, Alayt! I miss not being around all year to see what you all have been working on. Congratulations!

    1. Prof. Ramsay. It’s interesting because I thought of our class (Operation Research) to understand backpropagation (“automated linear programming and adjustment of constraints”) while writing my Chapter on Deep Learning. You never know where the content takes you! Thanks for coming!

    1. Thank you. Perhaps I should visualize ‘cool’ as a concept haha 🙂

  4. Congratulations, Alayt! It has been a joy learning with and from you this year. I am excited to see where life takes you in the years to come, and am certain that you will have a big impact on the next generation of scientists!

    1. I am excited to see where life takes me as well. Thank you for being a great advisor and allowing me to pursue my I.S. with the uttermost independence and freedom!

  5. I’m so happy for your achievement, Alayt! I know you will go very far in your life. Congratulations!

  6. Generating images according to some qualities or verbal descriptors is a creative idea. Congratulations on this fabulous work, Alayit. A topic like this can be continued in graduate school 🙂

    1. Definitely. I think this is only the tip of the iceberg, in many ways: depth, breadth, application… It showcases that there exist no limits to creativity! Thanks for the thought 🙂

  7. Alayt, congratulations! Very cool animations. With your experience generating them — are you able to take one of the images generated and recognize which concept it was generated from?

    1. It’s interesting that you ask that because: Initially, I wanted to take advantage of visual indeterminacy so I did not consider the explicit relation to the corresponding concept. However, after I generated the images, it’s the very same question I asked myself (Slide 19)!

      With the visuals I have in my I.S., I wouldn’t say so because they are abstract. My model/method would also require further training but it’s definitely a topic of interest and an extension of my I.S. if need be.

  8. I’ve learned so much from you this year, Alayt! And now you’ve found a creative and engaging way to share your research with the world. I’m curious– if you had another year to work on this project, what would you do?

    1. An excellent question: I would definitely work on the reverse. Can you match an indeterminate image to its corresponding concept? I would also incorporate context to determine if relations (patterns) could exist between concepts of similar meaning. As for applications, I would consider generated images for translation or communication between Lexicoders (verbal thinker) & Opticoders (visual thinker).

  9. Congratulations Alayt on a great I.S. and presentation!! You’ve worked so hard and it’s clearly paid off. I’m very proud of you!

  10. Hey Alayt! I love how you combined your passions for Art, Mathematics, and Learning all under one topic! I loved looking through your research and findings!


    1. Thank you! I didn’t put a voice over the ppt so the reader can have the freedom in understanding and interpreting the images, so I’m glad it was helpful!

  11. እንኳን ደስ አለሽ!!! አኩርተሽናል!!! So proud of all your hard work!!!

    1. ሲስቱ: ልክ ቢለሻል :: አሜን ብያለው:: ስለመጣሽም በጣም አመሰግናለው:: ቀንሽ ይባረክ::

    1. Maya, it’s so great to see you here. Thanks for coming. I’m currently considering a Postbac in AI Research to support work at the intersection of visual art, creativity, and AI at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

  12. Alayt , proud as always.
    I am glad you are working on physical science which can change the world in to a better place .
    Great science and technology research work !!
    Wonderful artistic presentation!!

    1. Thank you ኢንጅነረ:: ሁሉንም አካለሽ ጨረሽው!

  13. That’s my girl! Yes, Alayt- you better show them. I am so proud of you! You worked so hard, and it shows! እንኳን ደስ አላችሁ! See, I’m working on it 😉

    1. I can already imagine the pronunciation!! Thank you, girl!!! We really did that.
      🎵: “Minorities in STEM, We do it till the end!”

  14. Alayt you are truly brilliant! Your mind continues to amaze me, it’s an honor being your friend.

    1. Emma, you have been a monumental part of my I.S. and I’m so glad for our friendship as well.

  15. This is absolutely beautiful work! Congratulations Alayt on your award. It’s truly wonderful to read about and see your creativity and complexity of the project.

    1. Thank you, Jenelle. I’m glad you found wonder in my work. Congrats on a beautiful I.S. as well.

  16. Congratulations Alayt! What an interesting topic. You are one of the most creative people I know and it is exciting to see your vision come to life here in your IS.

  17. Congratulations Alayt! You did an amazing job and I am so proud of you. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

  18. Alayt, you are so brilliant and this work is so impressive. Thanks for sharing it with us. I’m so excited to see all that you do in the world!

    1. Thank you, Laney. You’ve really inspired me to be present in “all that I do in the world”!

  19. Congratulations, Alayt for such an inspired and award winning IS! Fascinating to see math and visual arts coming together….I’m intrigued by your final question: what are the limits to the machines creativity?

    1. Intriguing indeed! Limits to the machine’s creativity? So I started my I.S. by establishing a definition of creativity and at that time, I was into Japanese philosophy. Using a thought known as Wabi Sabi, I concluded that we cannot establish a lasting definition of creativity because it is an idea that transcends. So to answer your question, whatever I present as a limit now may not be, or even exist as a limit. It’s a conundrum of its own, which is why I left it open-ended 🙂

  20. Congrats Alayt on your IS and the award! I love seeing another mathematician incorporating art into their project- I think that the field of math is typically seen as the polar opposite of the arts and bridging that gap opens up so many exciting and creative possibilities that one might not expect out of math!

    1. Exactly! And you’ve done such a wonderful job as well. Thanks, Emma!

  21. Congrats Alayt!
    You’ve tackled a very interesting project with a lot of potential for future technical and artistic exploration. I hope you will continue to pursue these questions on the future!


  22. Very interesting and exciting project , exactly what the world is looking for in this AI transition era. Very proud of your bravery and hard work!! Congratulations Alayt !

  23. Wow this is a beyond interesting concept. Bravo! Keep it up
    ተጋዳሊት አሌክሲ!

    1. አወዶ ሓፍተይ:: እንተለክቱዋል ተጋዳሊትእየ::

  24. Dear Alayt,

    Congratulations on your IS! What a fantastic intersection of very different ways of understanding the world to create something that is beautiful and really interesting. It’s been a pleasure to follow the development of this project from afar over the course of the year. You have done superb work!

    Wishing you all the very best for your future!

    1. President Bolton. If we look out, there are endless ways of understanding the world. This was only my attempt and I’m glad you found interest beyond the beauty. Thank you for taking part in my journey!

  25. Alayt you never cease to amaze me I’m so proud of you to have and everything that you will accomplish. You inspire me to leave my dreams and I can’t wait to work on a project together.

    1. ሳሉ: you will be my partner in our eventual visual storytelling journey! Best believe we are in training for our future in Tigray. ይኽንየለይ ሓፍተይ::

  26. Alayt, congratulations and I’m so proud of you! What an amazing research and fantastic job. I’m excited for your next journey and know that you have people like myself cheering for you! Again congratulations and well done!

    1. Naol. Of course, from Cross Country to I.S.! Thank you, and can’t wait for all you have yet to achieve in your time at Wooster. 🙂

  27. Its good to know you have been learning all that I have been teaching you over the years, so I will take full credit for this but I am proud of You.

  28. This topic is so unusual and interesting! I enjoyed reading about it, congratulations!

    1. Thank you Kayla. I’m glad you found the unusualness interesting!

  29. Congratulations, Alayt, on completing your Senior I.S.! This is a terrific example of interdisciplinary research and (while math is not my strong suit) very clearly presented.

    Wishing you every success as you embark on the next chapter of life, post-Wooster.

  30. Alayt, this is amazing! I love how you managed to combine math, CS, and art in such a cool way. So proud of you and cannot wait to see what you do next!

  31. Congratulations Alayt! You bring up a very interesting topic and there is no one better to breach it than you! Excited to see what you get to next!

  32. Quite interesting! Though, you should make explicit your notion of creativity. It seems that any system with some form of permutative/combinatoric capacity of inputs/stimuli can be said to be creative. But can the climate be seen as creative for it can “create” complex structures such as snowflakes? Are Humans a complex of such creative machines? Do not randomisers have a causal background?

  33. This is such an interesting project! So proud of you, and congrats on the award! I can’t wait to see all you’ll do in the future!

  34. Alayt you are so amazingly talented! Can I ask, what are some of the implications of this work for your field?

  35. You never cease to amaze, Alayt! What a beautiful and technical IS. Congratulations on this accomplishment, and I cannot wait to see what you do with your passions for STEM and art in the future!

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