21st Century Art Education: The Rise of AI and Machine Learning

“Who Fears” by Nettrice Gaskins

According to Autodesk, artificial intelligence or AI refers to a broad field of science encompassing a range of subjects from computer science and psychology to philosophy and linguistics. It is primarily concerned with getting computers to do tasks that would normally require human intelligence. Today, there are many subsets of AI, including programs and tools that simulate the neurons in the human brain.

Stephanie Dinkins and Not The Only One (NTOO)

Machine learning is a subset of AI that deals with writing algorithms that allow computers to learn from data without being explicitly programmed. For example, artist Stephanie Dinkins collected data from family interviews and literature such as Toni Morrison’s “Sula” to train a machine (algorithm). The algorithm “learns” to identify patterns, like occurrence of certain words or combinations of words, and answers questions based on these patterns.

Student Deep Dream portraits

The image I created of Nnedi Okorafor (see above) uses similar technology. Deep Dream Generator uses Gatys image style transfer, a type of neural network that synthesizes multiple images and generates a result. For her “Art and Code” class, an art teacher had her students look at my work and create their own portraits. The themes for this work are Afrofuturism and using technology creatively to counter bias in AI.

CV Dazzle

In the 21st Century, developments in technology are making it increasingly difficult to keep anything about yourself private .In the fight against racism and police brutality, some have suggested that extravagant makeup can block facial recognition technology they worry have been deployed by authorities. The creator of the CV Dazzle makeup style designed patterns to fool older methods of facial detection. “CV” refers to computer vision while “dazzle” references a style of camouflage used in World War I to disguise ships.

Note: This method won’t trick more sophisticated algorithms.

Wearable tech and fashion design

I initially used Deep Dream as a way to teach students about algorithms and programming (computer science). Recently, I taught students how to use Deep Dream to create self-portraits as T-shirt designs. One student embedded wearable circuits and LEDs in her garment and portrait (see above). The concepts of CV Dazzle is privacy and surveillance combined with fashion. I think the concepts and themes mentioned here will drive creativity and innovation in STEAM education and the art world.

Most important, these creative, culturally relevant, and culturally responsive themes can engage students from groups underrepresented in computer science, technology, and engineering (STEM).

Nettrice is a digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM education.