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AI and the Humanities

Emergent fields, critical perspectives, ethical implications

Conference organized by the Human Futures research program


About the conference

More and more humanities disciplines have either a necessary involvement with Artificial Intelligence and machine learning as their subject is changing as new technologies are implemented, or the disciplines can see methodological opportunities arising from AI/ML. 

Robotics, social media, and automated translation are just a few of the subjects where arts and humanities cannot in good faith avoid dealing with ethical issues, understanding of technological development, and cooperating across disciplines and institutional boundaries.

The pace of development is also striking, e.g. automated translation is very different from what it was just five years ago and radically changes the perception of the field. This makes it acute for humanities disciplines to understand the changing conditions for knowledge production, practices in the field, ethical challenges as well as new opportunities that arise. 

This two-day conference is organized around open panels that address key subjects in the intersection of humanities and AI. Proposals for further panels are welcome. See descriptions in the menu to the left. Remote participation is possible.

The conference is organized in collaboration with the interdisciplinary research center SHAPE ('Shaping Digital Citizenship'), Aarhus University. 

Call for papers

This conference invites papers that address these issues of humanities involvement in AI/ML, both constructively and critically, across a range of topics.

Submit 200-300 words panel proposals and abstracts to kb@cc.au.dk along with a short cv. Please specify which panel you wish to participate in.

Conference program

September 6

10.00-10.15: Welcome

10.15-12.15: AI and Creativity 

12.15-13.00: Lunch

13.00-15.00: AI and Visual Culture I

15.00-15.15: Coffee

15.15-17.00: Automated Text Generation

18.30-22.00: Conference dinner

September 7

9.00-11.00: Knowledge and AI 

11.00-11.15: Coffee

11.15-12.45: AI and Visual Culture II

12.45-13.30: Lunch

13.30-14.45: Platform Conference Data

14.45-15.00: Coffee 

15.00-17.00: AI and Literature


AI and Creativity

Jan Løhmann Stephensen, aekjls@cc.au.dk

The proposed themes in this panel are how the application of AI-based technologies might (1) impact the fields of creativity and/or art-making on the level of production aesthetics (new formats, practices, audience relations, etc.); (2) reconfigure our various notions of creativity and all the practices that are subsumed under these notions; and (3) influence broader discussions concerning for instance the future of work (automation, robotisation, etc.) and our societal frameworks (e.g. legal issues concerning ownership and intellectual property, taxation, labor rights, etc.) that also follow from the potential disruption of the cultural and creative industries as ecologies of production.

AI and Visual Culture

Lotte Philipsen, lottephilipsen@cc.au.dk

This panel explores interrelations between artificial intelligence and contemporary visual culture. Today, AI image analysis and image generation flourish in several different domains (e.g., news imagery, transport, artistic practice, private photography, the culture industry, policing). The panel investigates how AI (possibly) transforms our conception of vision, our use of images, and image technologies’ use of us. While the distributed ecologies of AI images cut across traditional borders such as visible/invisible and human/machine, the panel especially welcomes papers that analyze concrete AI image practice(s) and discuss their possible cultural implications.

Automated Text Generation

Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, madsrt@cc.au.dk

Automation plays an increasing role in text production. Its impact is felt in translation and news media, as well as in the rise of grammar assistants and text generators that more and more seem to appear creative. This panel will discuss how automated writing changes fields, offers new perspectives for creativity and quality, and how automated writing can be studied across disciplines.

Knowledge and AI

Jacob Wamberg (kunjw@cc.au.dk), Finn Olesen (finno@cc.au.dk) & Cathrine Hasse (caha@edu.au.dk)

How do we mobilize AI to generate genuinely new knowledge and, more broadly, new behaviors? Across their modes of operation, it seems fair to say that closed circuits of AI will project past solutions into the future. Algorithms tackle problems according to preprogrammed logical procedures, and neural networks match new situations with the patterns they have extracted from masses of old ones. In this panel we shall therefore examine how it is possible to generate new patterns – that is, to move into the spere of becoming – by integrating circuits of AI. Was Henri Bergson right in thinking that the intellectual sphere, which may be extendable into the calculation of AI, was alien to the potential of becoming, and accordingly that the genuinely new knowledge may only emerge, when AI circuits are broken open to the material surroundings and integrate their agencies, e.g. in Latourian networks of actors? Or may the new also emerge inside the circuits themselves, for instance through the indeterminacy of quantum computing? In this panel we welcome philosophically oriented contributions that reflect on AI’s role in mediating between past and future.

AI and Literature

Shoshannah Ganz, shganz@grenfell.mun.ca 

Fiction has long been imagining a posthuman or even transhuman future where artificial intelligence in the form of cyborgs and more-than-human machines expand human possibilities or transcend the limits of the human animal. AI is used by posthuman theorists to question humanist ideals of progress and at the same time also used by transhumanists to suggest the culmination of humanist aspirations in the cyborg. In a posthuman context, AI literature enters a discourse that unseats the human as the only rational and language-capable animal thereby upsetting human hierarchies and the various binaries upheld through humanist thought.

Platform Conference Data

Critical Data Analysis of ELO 2021, Platform (Post?) Pandemic conference

Christian Ulrik Andersen, Malthe Stavning Erslev, Pablo Rodrigo Velasco González & Søren Bro Pold.

The 2021 ELO conference, co-chaired by Aarhus and Bergen universities in May 2021, was planned and executed as a fully virtual event with the general theme Platform (Post?) Pandemic (ELO 2021). The theme led to numerous discussions of the concept of platforms in general and in electronic literature (e-lit). We experienced historical perspectives, discussions of contemporary critical issues with platforms such as criticism with/through art/e-lit, creation of artistic alternatives to major platforms, discussions of how platform culture relates to the pandemic situation and discussions of the definitions and potentials of platforms. Furthermore, the conference itself was held on platforms, thus its critical reflection on platforms relied heavily on the use of commercial platforms.

However, it is difficult to get a concise overview of the 5 conference days’ 62 tracks and our experience is obviously limited. This left us with the questions of whether there is a different way to map this through data analysis, including the sub-question of how the platforms themselves map and frame such a conference, and what could be the platform perspective on this platform critical conference?

We have been experimenting with mapping the conference through data analysis of its recorded and transcribed parts. With the assistance of students (Anne Nielsen, Magnus Wittrup & Jakob Kleofas Adolph) we operated three analytical approaches: human close-reading of data with a focus on the contexts of main keywords (‘platform’, ‘pandemic’, ‘conference’); a Gephi-based (Bastian et al.) network analysis and mapping of co-occurring words; and a mapping of the 1000 most occurring word-pairs done with Python’s Natural Language Toolkit and Pyvis.

Durings this process, we found that our approach was not merely a tool to produce findings; rather, we began viewing the data analysis as itself a form of electronic literature. This e-lit perspective affords a “critical reflection on the role of the digital (…) in humanistic inquiry” (Berner). As such, our efforts exemplify a “co-creation of critical discourse and poiesis” which characterizes the ethos of e-lit in a digital humanities context (Rettberg and Saum-Pascual).

This panel will present our research and discuss what we learned by operating the mentioned methods for observing the data generated by artists and academics in a virtual conference on platforms – and what it means to understand such data as itself a form of e-lit. We will divide the panel into four parts: 1) How does the conference see platforms? 2) How do platforms see the conference? 3) How to "read" or "see" a data-orama? And 4) Platform poems - conference data as electronic literature.

DATE: September 6-7, 2022


Building: 1422
Room: Preben Hornung Stuen
Frederik Nielsens Vej 2
8000 Aarhus C


Suggestions for new panels: May 1

Submission of abstracts: June 1

Decision on acceptance: June 15

Conference registration: August 10 

Conference fee: 50 euro (free for affiliates of the Human Futures program)


Kirsten Brohm, student assistant Human Futures: kb@cc.au.dk

Conference organizers