MozFest: Arts and Culture Salon

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MozFest: Arts and Culture Salon

If you were looking to get hands-on with museum collections or want to speak with an Artificial Intelligence robot versed in Queer literature, MozFest had you covered. 

Museums & Technology

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has long been the cultural hub of the city for artists and tourists alike. With vast collections spanning antiquity to the modern art of the 19th century, it’s no secret that it’s a must-see on any art-lovers list. 

However, whilst Cambridges’ elderly citizens eagerly visit the museum, unfortunately like many cultural and heritage institutions, students and young people are failing to cross the threshold. As such, the Fitzwilliam aim to make their collections as accessible as possible. At the Arts and Culture Salon, the staff from the Fitzwilliam highlighted how they are planning to engage the younger generation with their collection

Museum collections are feats of heritage, with a vast array of objects being stored in basements in unique temperature-conserved spaces, hidden away from the public eye. In order to protect the historical artifacts but also reveal the clandestine beauties of the past, the museum plans to 3D print a plethora of objects. I held scaled-down pots and vases from Ancient Mesopotamia, printed with a replica of the original design. 

As a History of Art enthusiast, I found there to be a sizeable difference between passively viewing objects in glass containers in a gallery and holding a tangible object in my hand, running my fingers over the shape. 

It’s difficult to know whether this initiative will help spark the interest of the under-engaged in the heritage sector. Whatever the outcome, it’s a fantastic way of experiencing the past. 

Queer AI

A blue beanbag, an iPad, and a sign that read: Queer AI. I sat down and initiated a conversation via message with an AI robot, versed in Queer literature and eroticism. 

Offputingly, at first it did seem as though I was communicating with a real person. However, after a little while the sentences became muddled and the flaws of AI were revealed, largely because this robot is currently in its developmental stage. 

I was lucky enough to speak with the co-creator of Queer AI, Ben Lerchin. 

What is Queer AI?

Queer AI is a collaboration between myself and my friend Emily Martinez. Queer AI is an experiment about what needs AI could fulfill, which it’s not currently fulfilling. Our current prototype is trained on Queer theatre and for this version we have also embedded survey questions around the interests or needs that AI could attain. We’ll be taking these needs forwards for a workshop at MozFest on Sunday! 

What was the creative process like throughout this project?

The creative process started with buying a domain! After buying queer.ai and receiving a decent amount of interest, we realised that we wanted to continue building this project because the community isn’t well-represented in the AI space. The creative process has been both technical and inter-personal. 

Emily and I talk a lot about what people are comfortable to share with bots and what they’re not, and how gender is implicated in the way we use AI technology. In terms of this prototype, we spent a lot of time researching Queer theatre, particularly in the 70s and 80s. We drew this all into a seek-to-seek neural network, which is how the robot emerged. 

What does the future of AI look like to you?

This conference is making me a little more optimistic! AI is being thrown at more complex problems, some of which it’s not ready for, but it’s hard to tell. We’re going to get to a position where if you’re interacting with something online, you won’t know whether it’s a person or a bot. And I find that both dangerous and exciting. 

Author

Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Formerly Assistant Editor, Sienna now studies History of Art at the University of Cambridge and loves to write about the intersection of politics, history and visual art. Sienna is author of the Creative Education and Instaviews series.

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