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Shaping 21th Century AI: Controversy and Closure in Research, Policy and Media

Shaping 21st Century AI: Controversy and Closure in Research, Policy and Media

Project description

Funded by the ESRC (ORA Programme)

Noortje Marres (PI), Michael Castelle (co-I), James Tripp (Academic Technologist)

The international project “Shaping AI” investigates Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a socio-technical phenomenon: AI is not only an innovative technology that is being integrated into our societies, it also entails a distinctive approach to solving social problems through automation and potentially new ways of organising society and the public sphere.

The conjunction of dynamic technological developments, fundamental controversies and massive investments indicates that 21st-century AI is currently in its formative stage. Whether we know it or not, many of us are now involved in negotiating what our future with AI will look like — what AI is, is not and can become. SHAPING AI investigates this still amenable formation process by mapping, analysing and comparing regional and globalized ecologies of AI innovation in four different countries — Canada, France, the UK, and Germany — and across three different domains: the media, policy space, and research communities.

In each of these different and overlapping contexts, the project will use innovative social, digital and design methods to map controversies about AI. In this way, the project will bring to the surface underlying assumptions and wider forces that inform beliefs in the fundamental capacity of AI to solve society’s problems, cement geo-political power, and transform what it is to be human. We will also create a baseline of sociological data to contextualize the initial proliferation of 21st-century AI.

In addition, the project will conduct experiments in participation in AI by hosting creative method-led workshops that invite stakeholders and members of the public into the exploration of future AI pathways, and to envision different possible ways of living with and without AI in society. By these various means, the project meets the strong demand for expertise and visions to inform understanding of the unfolding developments of 21st-century AI in society and in shaping AI for the public benefit.


SHAPING AI is a 3-year multinational collaboration led by the Humboldt Institute of Internet and Society, Berlin, with the University of Warwick leading the UK-based research. Other partners include the Medialab at Sciences Po, Paris, the NENIC Lab at INRS Montreal, and the Algorithmic Media Observatory at Concordia University. The collaborators won a 1,7 million € grant awarded by national research foundations in the highly competitive Open Research Area (ORA) scheme.