Mass Cultural Council periodically poses questions to artists about issues in their work and lives. This month, we wanted to revisit a question we first posed in 2014, What technology trends are impacting your discipline?
Whether it’s artificial intelligence in art, new distribution platforms, or evolving creative tools, technology has the potential to impact creative practices in significant ways. What are the impacts you’re seeing for you and/or your peers?
Writer/artist Will Dowd, mathematician/poet Pedro Poitevin, and glitch artist Jael Whitney respond.
Will Dowd, writer and artist
As an artist and working cartoonist, I instinctively recoiled this year at the advent of AI-generated art. However, perhaps because of the long history of image and object appropriation in Western art, from Duchamp’s readymades to Warhol’s screenprints, I’ve come around. I now expect that over time these new programs will become so fully integrated into our artmaking practices that future generations will struggle to comprehend our initial panicked reaction.
As a writer, I’ve been less intrigued or threatened by the newfangled AI chatbots, which, from what I can tell, have yet to produce an interesting sentence. It may be my prejudice but the human fingerprint seems more deeply stamped on literature, and I don’t anticipate this technology will impact my use of language.
However, I eagerly await future waves of AI text-to-video tools. For the disabled, the ability to turn a script into a realized film from the confines of one’s bedroom is a thrilling possibility I never anticipated would arrive in my lifetime. While the larger industry will no doubt be disrupted, I hope this technology could democratize moviemaking, exploding the barriers that once determined who could and could not share their inner visions with the world.
Jael Whitney, glitch artist
My discipline, glitch art, is sort of a spiritual antithesis to the trend of AI art. AI art converges to create an image that looks similar to the digital images it uses for reference. Glitch art, on the other hand, is more of a creative destruction that tries to make something unrecognizable from the pixels of its initial reference image.
Pedro Poitevin, mathematician and poet
One technological trend that has been helpful to me is resource-sharing: access to the Open Science Grid allowed me to parallelize the search for poetic structures within animal genomes, an effort which helped me find a sonnet hidden in the genome of a cat.
Though I am concerned about the labor market disruptions that may result from the rise of artificially intelligent language models, and even when they are woefully poor at the highly constrained writing I do, I have found them useful in writing code. For example, I recently wrote a sonnet by juxtaposing three-letter codes of airports. The title of the sonnet, “A Doomsday Prayer for the Polluting Ape,” illustrates this technique, as it is an itinerary of flights that begins in Andamooka, Australia (airport code ADO), and, after touching ground on the intermediate airports with codes OMS, DAY, PRA, YER, FOR, THE, POL, LUT, and ING, ends in San Juan Aposento, Perú (airport code APE). To make this poem come to life on the screen, I decided to develop an app that allows the reader to interact with the poem. An AI language model helped me streamline the development of this app.
What Technology Trends Are Impacting Your Discipline? from 2014.
How Do You Use Online Platforms as an Artist? 2019 and 2013
Virtual Programming: Getting Started
Will Dowd is a writer and artist whose editorial cartoons frequently appear in The Boston Globe. He has received awards and grants including from Harvard University’s Woodberry Poetry Room and the St. Botolph Club Foundation, and his essay collection Areas of Fog was named a Massachusetts Book Awards “Must Read.”
Pedro Poitevin is the author of three books, including two books of Spanish language palindromes and one poetry collection. His poems in English and Spanish have appeared in publications including Letras Libres, the Mathematical Intelligencer, Boston Literary Magazine, and Everyday Genius. He is an associate professor of mathematics at Salem State University.
Jael Whitney is a Choctaw glitch artist and digital creator. Find her work online @w3rmwood.
If you are interested in participating in a future artist discussion, please let us know.