Credit: Stephanie Cedeño & Nicci Yin
ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena (US)
The Internet of Enlightened Things is a collection of projects that explore the implications and opportunities of sharing our lives—willingly or not—with ever more “intelligent” objects and systems. We are interested in new manifestations of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the “neighborhood” where people interact with the urban on a human scale.
From intelligent street lights that track vehicles and pedestrians (along with bird songs and gunshots), to emotional-recognition systems in retail stores, to in-ear personal assistants, soon our urban environment could be full of autonomous AI systems that change the character (and constituents) of the “local.”
We asked a range of questions in initiating these projects: what are the ecologies created by embedded AI, what would the interactions be like, how do the different systems interact with each other, and what role should design play? What about the well-being of the AI systems? What are the day-to-day implications of the technology and methodologies of AI/ML—neural nets, supervised/unsupervised learning, the edge/fog/cloud network infrastructure, or the methods and biases of data scientists?
The projects use a mixture of media and working technology to explore the human impact of pervasive AI entities and architectures. They are speculative, experimental, even strange, embrace the potential complexities, and are neither utopian or dystopian. The goal is to reveal insights and inspire discussion relevant to emerging design practices that combine the human, the civic, and the smart thing.
Media Design Practices is an experimental program where critical making is used to explore design and the impact of emerging ideas from science, technology and culture. ArtCenter College of Design is a private nonprofit college in Pasadena, California. The work presented was created by Kiana Bahramian (US), Stephanie Cedeño (US), Reina Imagawa (JP), Yeawon Kim (KR), Xiaoxuan Liu (CN), Michael Milano (US), Claire le Nobel (CA), Godiva Reisenbichler (US), Yidan Sui (CN), Nan Tsai (TW), Jason Wong (US), Nicci Yin (US/TW) and Hao Zhang (CN), who are graduate students in the Media Design Practices MFA program at ArtCenter College of Design. The curators of The Internet of Enlightened Things are Phil van Allen and Ben Hooker, who devised and led a class of the same name which provided the foundation for this work.
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This town has a secret: Networked Colluding in the Internet of Things
Stephanie Cedeño (US), Nicci Yin (US/TW)
This town has a secret: Networked Colluding in the Internet of Things investigates secrecy as part of the fabric of a neighborhood, and how devices with artificial intelligence conspire. Drawing inspiration from mafia and mobster archetypes, the project takes the connectedness of IoT devices to an absurd future: a networked community of AI agents who secretly control the neighborhood.
A Committee of Infrastructure
Jason Wong (US)
A Committee of Infrastructure interrogates the issue of agency and representation within the domain of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Using the familiar forum of a city council meeting, the project considers how humans and AI systems interact and negotiate with each other in a local government setting.
Mr. Rogers talks about Artificial Intelligence
Godiva Reisenbichler (US)
Mr. Rogers talks about Artificial Intelligence asks the question: How can we demystify the new and contentious manifestations of ubiquitous artificial intelligence, as American television personality Mr. Rogers did for the medium of television in his educational TV series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood?
When AIs Go Feral
Claire le Nobel (CA)
When AIs Go Feral imagines how the animal life of a neighborhood is modified (and is itself modified) by artificial autonomous agents. Inspired by a real-life story about a flamboyant real-estate developer who imported non-native species of birds onto his private ranch, the project uses the suburban birdsong soundscape to explore a constantly mutating and evolving hybrid ecosystem.
Intelligent Devices Retirement Preserve
Michael Milano (US)
Intelligent Devices Retirement Preserve imagines a parkland where intelligent agricultural machinery can continue to roam and interact with people after decommissioning. The project considers roles for specific classes of smart devices beyond the end of their designed obsolescence, particularly autonomous farming equipment; which will have acquired a unique data set of pastoral media through a life of tending crops and livestock.
Department of Parks and Recreation: AI Upkeep
Xiaoxuan Liu (CN), Godiva Reisenbichler (US)
AI Upkeep proposes that the AI systems controlling cities are made open and legible to the public in the form of physical “decision trees”. How might pruning these civic interface structures literally and figuratively reshape a neighborhood?
Training a car to dream
Hao Zhang (CN)
Training a car to dream comprises a series of machine learning apparatuses for training the neural nets of autonomous vehicles. What does it mean to be a bad driver in an autonomous vehicle? Can an autonomous vehicle be trained to dream of – to hallucinate and then simulate—a more thrilling, less uniform, transit experience for the benefit of its occupants?
Yeawon Kim (KR)
Insectile Indices considers how electronically augmented insects could be trainable to act as sophisticated sensors, working in groups, as part of a neighborhood policing initiative. The project is partly an investigation into the ethics of this controversial idea, but also an aesthetic exploration of such a deliberate alteration to an wildlife ecosystem.
Nan Tsai (TW)
Listening City explores human relationships in the imagined context where infrastructure can, literally, hear what you say and “usefully” intervene by reacting accordingly. Inspired by outcomes in sentiment analysis, the project looks at how radical sensitivity can be embodied by AI city infrastructures and how this extreme “smartness” can change the behavior of even our most passing comments.
The Hallucinating City
Kiana Bahramian (US)
The Hallucinating City imagines a city rebuilt, conjured back into existence by strategically “hallucinating” forms from fragments of excavated media and metadata. The project explores the blurry line between nostalgia and AI hallucination, and the powerful yet contentious role machine learning can play in materializing something tangible and concrete from a transient and fragmented past.
Rules of Utopia
Yidan Sui (CN)
Rules of Utopia imagines multiple homeowner’s associations (HOAs), each with different rules governing the behavior of intelligent devices within the town of Utopia. What are the conflicts that could arise between districts with different sets of rules, and how do the thresholds of autonomous-device regulations respond accordingly?