Welcome to Art, AI and Digital Ethics. We are a research collective for academics, artists and art professionals run out of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Ethics, University of Melbourne. The group was founded by curator and researcher Vanessa Bartlett, with Gabby Bush, Kristal Spreadborough and Tyne Daile Sumner
On this page you can find information about our research activities, our seed funding rounds and our upcoming events and projects.
Behind Your Eyes, Between Your Ears (2015) by George Khut. Exhibited in Group Therapy curated by Vanessa Bartlett. With thanks to the artist.
Collaboration between arts and STEM disciplines is increasingly making a powerful contribution to knowledge about digital ethics. Meanwhile, contemporary artists are responding to technology not just as a material or subject matter, but as something that structures every aspect of our lived experience. Art, AI and Digital Ethics might therefore be understood as a rapidly expanding mode of academic and artistic production, where artworks are evolved to encourage reflection on the ethics embodied in human-technology relationships.
The problem with rapid technological expansion is that it affords little space for analysis and care. While Art, AI and Digital Ethics promotes the value of artistic practice as research, there is little discussion about the tensions and value judgments that emerge when art is adopted as a method alongside—or in addition to—writing a journal article or book. Issues of democracy and engagement are often cited on the grounds that an artwork ‘makes people think’. But the aesthetic expertise required to encourage this ethical feeling and deliberation is often treated as secondary. Amid the scramble to frame Art, AI and Digital Ethics as ‘new’ and ‘innovative,’ we forget that artists have been exploring relationships between aesthetics and ethics, art and technology, and art and science for centuries.
Our research initiative explores the contribution of art to enquiry about the ethics of Artificial Intelligence and digital innovation, with an emphasis on how artists and curators produce aesthetic encounters and emotional engagements that support ethical feeling and deliberation. We are guided by two overarching research questions:
What, specifically, do artists and curators bring to the conversation about AI and digital ethics?
The value of aesthetic experience is notoriously difficult to articulate. How do artists and curators allow the ethical dimensions of technological innovation to be experienced and felt, in ways that escape the grasp of other disciplines? How can technology and engineering specialists work with these insights to forge genuinely new directions in digital ethics research?
How do we practice in ethical ways?
Art often invites critique by estranging technologies from their ordinary context and re-presenting them to be understood anew. Is it possible to appropriate data sets and hardware without reproducing their inbuilt ethical dilemmas? How can we sustain critical and creative engagement with technology amid the hype of technological innovation?
Rather than attempting to define the complex field of Art, AI and Digital Ethics, we focus on exploring the multiple tensions emerging in its practice.
Labyrinth Pyschotical (2012) Jennifer Kanary Niklov(a). Exhibited in Group Therapy curated by Vanessa Bartlett. With thanks to the Artist
CAIDE AAIDE Seed Funding
Our seed fund is a yearly initiative designed to foster networking and critical thinking across Art, AI and Digital Ethics at University of Melbourne and beyond. It is for academics (including graduate researchers), industry professionals and practicing artists of all disciplines. We fund projects that specifically explore what art practice brings to consideration of digital ethics.
The seed fund was launched in 2021 with a blog post and a workshop attended by 25 artists, curators, industry professionals and academics from multiple disciplines.The workshop provided an opportunity for participants to discuss Art, AI and Digital Ethics prior to forming research teams who could apply for the fund.
We funded two successful projects in 2021
CAIDE AAIDE Seed Funding Projects
Interrogating the Ethics of Biometric Capture in Immersive Musical Performance
By Dr Ryan Kelly (FEIT,) Dr Solange Glasser (FFAM,) Dr Margaret Osbourne (MDHS) and Ben Loveridge (Chancellery.)
SACRIFICE: Can you trust a stone? Rehearing human and robot swarms via ancient standing stones
by Dr Robert Walton (VCA/FEIT,) Dr Aleks Michalewicz (MDAP,) Dr Airlie Chapman (FEIT,) Goran Duric (VCA,) Daniel Williams, Elena Vella (FEIT) and Justin Green (FEIT.)
February 2022 ‘Small Data is Beautiful: Analytics, Art and Narrative’
This interdisciplinary symposium seeks to nurture and advance our understanding of small data that involves human-scale analyses, thinking about aesthetics, and exploring how narratives emerge from data patterns and their anomalies. Key questions guiding the event are: how do interactions with small data shape and inspire transformations of knowledge in the twenty-first century? Who collects, owns and curates small data? And when and where does small data hold power? What kind of actions, or play, are possible with small data? Which stories can be told with small data?
March 2022 Creating New Codes: How can art explore digital ethics? NVG Melbourne Design Week.
This event will document work in progress from the winners of our 2021 Seed fund project Interrogating the Ethics of Biometric Capture in Immersive Musical Performance. Melbourne Design Week (MDW) is an annual 11-day program of talks, tours, exhibitions and workshops that celebrate and critically interrogate design through its varied disciplines.
April 2022 ANAT SPECTRA: Art, AI and Digital Ethics Panel
This panel will report on findings from our launch event, which brought together artists, curators and academics. ANAT SPECTRA is Australia’s premiere event exploring experimental, interdisciplinary art-science practices
Art, AI and Digital Ethics Seed Fund 2022
Details to be announced
Our steering committee is an interdisciplinary team with expertise across visual art and curating, music and music psychology, literature, data analytics and digital humanities. We welcome expressions of interest from new members, particularly practicing artists
- Dr Vanessa Bartlett
Mckenzie Postdoctoral Fellow
Faculty of Arts
How do technologies shape wellbeing? How does art help us home in on the emotional and experiential implications of this question, in ways that escape the grasp of other disciplines? These questions drive Vanessa’s curatorial practice, in ways that influence not just what she curates, but how she researchers and develops her interdisciplinary projects. Her exhibitions at major international arts spaces, such as FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), UNSW Galleries and Furtherfield, have been seen by over 40,000 people and have featured in The Guardian, Creative Review and BBC Radio 4. She has edited two books for award-winning academic publisher Liverpool University Press (UK), the most recent of which was co-edited with neuroscientist Henrietta Bowden-Jones. Vanessa is currently McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. www.vanessabartlett.com
- Dr Kristal Spreadborough
Research Data Specialist
Melbourne Data Analytics Platform (MDAP)
Kristal Spreadborough is an interdisciplinary researcher with an interest in music, psychology, digital and data ethics, and data driven research. In her current role as Research Data Specialist at the Melbourne Data Analytics Platform, Kristal has worked across a range of disciplines including the creative industries, law, education, and the health sciences. For more information on her current activities, please visit: https://kristalspreadborough.github.io/
- Dr Tyne Sumner
ARC Research Fellow
Faculty of Arts
Tyne is an ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. Her research explores the relationship between literature and surveillance, with a focus on the ways that poetry is engaged with concepts such as privacy, identity, confession and subjectivity in the context of digital technology and the increasing datafication of everyday life. She is currently working on two ARC projects: Literature and the Face: A Critical History and the Australian Cultural Data Engine (ACD-Engine). Tyne also has ten years’ experience in the fields of digital research skills training and community building. Her first monograph is Lyric Eye: The Poetics of Twentieth-Century Surveillance (Routledge 2021).
- Gabby Bush
Centre for AI and Digital Ethics
Gabby is the program manager at the Centre for AI and Digital Ethics (CAIDE). In this role, Gabby coordinates the work of CAIDE, including engagement, research dissemination, grants and projects, including work on monitoring and surveillance, bias in algorithms and the CAIDE research stream in Art, AI and Digital Ethics. Gabby joined the Centre from Canberra, where she spearheaded engagement and partnerships in technology and development. Prior to that Gabby ran the eGovernance and Digitisation project for the United Nations Development Program in Samoa. Gabby hails from Aotearoa, New Zealand and has postgraduate qualifications in International Development and Religious Studies.
- Monica Lim
Pianist and Composer, Student of the Master of Music (Research) in Interactive Composition
Faculty of Fine Arts and Music
Monica is a Melbourne-based pianist and composer of classical contemporary and experimental music. Born in Malaysia and then migrating to Australia in her teens, Monica has produced work for theatre, contemporary dance, installations and film, as well as solo and ensemble instrumental pieces. She is interested in new cross-disciplinary genres and forms as well as combinations of new technology with music. Her work has been presented at White Night, Melbourne Fringe and Arts Centre Melbourne. Current projects include Universe, a multiform project with live video, music and contemporary dance for Arts House, Mental Dance, an art-science collaboration with cognitive neuroscience at the University of Melbourne, and the Electromagnetic Piano Project, a series of compositions and recordings for electromagnetic resonator piano supported by the APRA Amcos Art Music Fund. Monica is currently undertaking postgraduate research at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne in gesture-led composition.
- Willoh S. Weiland
Artist, Writer, Curator
Centre for AI and Digital Ethics
Willoh S. Weiland is an artist, writer and curator. Her work is concerned with creating epic impossible ideas and trying to fulfil them, working with non-artists, the possibilities of liveness and destroying the white male patriarchy. Over 2010–18 she was artistic director/CEO of the artist-led experimental arts organisation Aphids, Melbourne. Currently she is a Creative Associate of the MONA Foma festival, Hobart, and an Honorary Fellow at the Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces, University of Melbourne. Her works Forever Now, Void Love and Yelling at Stars (2008–15) explore the relationship between art and infinity by sending artworks into outer space.
Reading and resources
We draw on a wide range of theory and art practice to guide our investigation of Art, AI and Digital Ethics. Our list of resources is growing and we welcome contributions
Bartlett V (2019) ‘Digital Design and Time on Device: How Aesthetic Experience Can Help to Illuminate the Psychological Impact of Living in a Digital Culture.’ Digital Creativity 30(3): 177–195. DOI: 10.1080/14626268.2019.1637898.
Leibowicz C, Saltz E and Coleman L (2020) ‘A Field Guide to Making AI Art Responsibly’ https://medium.com/partnership-on-ai/a-field-guide-to-making-ai-art-responsibly-f7f4a5066ee
O’Dwyer, Rachel (2019) ASCEND. ‘Artistic Strategies for Engagement with Data Politics’ https://ascend-workshop.net/
Stark L and Crawford K (2019) ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Artificial Article Intelligence: What Artists Can Teach Us About the Ethics of Data Practice?’ Surveillance and Society 17(3/4): 442–455. https://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/surveillance-and-society/article/view/10821
Sumner, T. (2020). ‘Beyond Bigness: Can Big Data Have an Ethical Future?’ Data and Inequity: Who’s Missing in Big Data? Ed. Ruth Desouza. 21-27
Vallor S (2021) Mobilising the intellectual resources of the arts and humanities. https://www.adalovelaceinstitute.org/blog/mobilising-intellectual-resources-arts-humanities/