Afrofuturism 3.0 Revisited: 2015 to the Present

Nettrice Gaskins
3 min readDec 26, 2022
Snippet from Chapter 2 in “Afrofuturism 2.0"

In 2015 the book Afrofuturism 2.0: The Rise of Astro-Blackness was released and it examines the applicability of contemporary expressions of Afrofuturism, from several different points of view and disciplines of study. I wrote chapter two titled “Afrofuturism on Web 3.0”, which navigated technologies from the past, then present and future (now). I considered Web 3.0 or the “semantic Web”, that combined software development with cultural data.

Virtual 3D wildstyle installation in Second Life

At the time of writing the essay I was still exploring Second Life, a virtual 3D world. IBM had sponsored my Afrofuturism-themed exhibition and I was expanding on specific aspects of the show such as 3D graffiti (see above). There is a section about Second Life in the essay, as well.

Although I didn’t mention artificial intelligence I did include coding, software and hardware. I was predicting a paradigm shift in the way we imagined and used technology, culture, and art. Machines cannot rely on the ways we (humans) process what we see and read. Developers came up with a semantic system that brings ‘texts’ together, which gives more context to language so machines can understand the data with more accuracy.

Popular AI image generation services such as Midjourney are semantic systems.

Today, I wanted to see if I could bridge what I was exploring in 2015 with my current work using Midjourney. In other words, I wanted to see what my virtual 3D ideas looked like in the multi-dimensional (latent) space of AI. I gave the machine/system image and text prompts that included the Second Life screenshot (see above) and previous MJ output with text (“3D robot girl”) and got this result:

3D robot girl version 1.0

The 3D shapes from the Second Life image (see above) are prevalent in the Midjourney image. Then, I added “Kwanzaa” to the text prompt and got this result:

3D robot girl version 2.0

The AI incorporated cultural artifacts associated with the holiday and the African Diaspora such as the neck accessories, colors, and 2D designs. As a final attempt I added the word “gilded” and this was the result:

3D robot girl version 3.0

According to Joss Fong tools such as Midjourney represent a “massive cultural shift” and through creative ideation the tools foster a skillful use of language. The AI’s algorithms herald a “new, democratized form of expression that will commence another explosion in the volume of imagery produced by humans.”

Now I can add multidimensional latent space to my digital art vocabulary. In artificial intelligence ‘latent space’ maps what a neural network has learnt from training data (images, text). Latent space is created with an AI algorithm that is trained using 15 million+ images. This brings me back to my prediction in Afrofuturism 2.0: cultural art on a platform that supports “dynamic graphical applications with huge spaces of data.”

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Nettrice Gaskins

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