Humanising the Machine

By BFT Student Fellows: Tse Xuan Lau and Joanne Lim


A video covering our learnings over the course of the student fellowship

Week 1:

Part 1:

Humanising the Machine Part 1 aims to talk about biases in Media reporting in relation to the state of our climate urgency. Though there is increased coverage on climate change, there are questions on how the reports are framed, which in turn have a considerable bearing on public opinion. It was agreed that if the media reported fairly, it has the capacity to bring about greater urgency and understanding to the issues surrounding environmental changes, which in turn would generate greater societal will for swift action. 

Thus with the aid of the machine learning programme, we juxtaposed actual images of damaged habitats and contrasted it with news headlines that play down the situation at hand, advocating for fairer media reporting of the true extent of the situation at hand.

Part 2:

Humanising the Machine Part 2 is a set of images that explores the collaboration between the artist and AI programme. 

One of the key points that left an impression during the BeFantastic Together Primer Sessions was collaboration between humans and technology. In regards to Artificial Intelligence, points were raised about how we can see AI as a collaborative partner and also, how these softwares and machines can be treated as a tool, just like the relationship between a painter and his paintbrush. We thought that was an interesting point as tech is always seen as omnipotent, but after the dialogue, we understand that at its core, it is really an extension of human inputs. 

Since we believe that the climate calls for urgent action, we envisioned the worst possible situation our world would be by taking away trees, as a suggestion of deforestation, and cross-breed the images with fire elements to make links to the forest fires. By playing with the inputs in this virtual space, these acts run in parallel reflecting the damage done in the physical environment. We urge all to put in their effort to make the environment we live in a safe and sustainable one!! 

Week 2:

The Conversation [Fire girl [earth] and Unicorn girl [human] ] (Tokking heads)

This week we were introduced to the downsides of technology in regards to privacy and also the controversial aspects of AI Deep Fake technology. During the session, we learn that Deepfake technology enables anyone with a computer and an internet connection to create realistic looking photos and videos of people saying and doing things that they did not actually say or do.

Several deep fake videos have gone viral, threatening to grow from an Internet oddity to a widely destructive political and social force. One wonders of the potential of harm that could be done if entire populations could be fooled at the possibility of believing a video that is spreading false information. This creates additional uncertainty, and if believed wrongly especially in the political arena, the consequences for individuals or society could be quite dire.

A climate conversation using Tokkingheads

In this exercise, we had the choice of putting a face of a real person and a figurative drawing. We thought it would be better to create our own avatar as the point of this exercise was to showcase the technology without infringing on anyone’s privacy. This avatars was used to bring attention to forest fires created when farmers and corporations use the slash and burn method to clear vegetation. This method often spins out of control and destroys protected forested areas and releases large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

Climate emergency (P5.js)

As a response to Margaret Klein’s call to action to “break the spiral of silence”, we created a
generative visual, spiralling the phrase “climate crisis”. By fragmenting the phrase climate crisis in two parts suggests the notion of shattering, linking back to the act of “breaking”.

Breaking the Spiral of Silence using P5.js

Through this exercise, we got to learn how to use P5.js and to experiment with code creatively.

About the student fellows

Tse Xuan Lau: As a second year Fine Arts student at Lasalle College of the Arts, I have been working with screen based media
and installations that is inspired from nature and the environment. While working with digital mediums, I have
also been interested in the synergy between the Arts and Technology and the possibilities that can emerge from
such collaborations. I am currently an intern at supernormal, an independent art space that explores the intersections between Art,Design and Technology. Through this internship, I had the opportunity to learn programmes related to creative
coding and design as well as met like-minded artists from the field.

Joanne Lim: Joanne Lim (b. 1985) is a second year Fine Art student at Lasalle College of the Arts. She is interested in translating and visualising data that she collects in long-term projects that involve collaborative partnerships with individuals, communities and the exploration of the environment around her. Her practice unfolds through the use of digital mediums such as photography, video, generative art and assemblages that addresses issues of isolation, self, social and environmental issues.

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