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AI in Media and Culture

AI in culture and media: NLAIC position paper studies impact and outlines a future of opportunity

Artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping various fabrics of our society and it has already changed the culture and media sector. The industry is already using AI techniques and the Dutch AI Coalition has now introduced a paper that could make AI accessible to everyone.

Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenaer, chair of the Culture and Media working group of the Dutch AI Coalition, presented the position paper to Barbera Wolfensberger, Director-General for Culture and Media at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, in January 2022. The paper aims to promote innovation in the field of AI for the culture and media sector in the Netherlands.

NLAIC position paper on AI for culture and media

The position paper addresses two things that are critical when it comes to the application of AI in the culture and media sector. The paper tries to highlight how AI steers the transition in culture and media and at the same time, it also addresses how the sector can contribute to the application of AI.

For example, when we talk about AI from a culture reference, the immediate thing coming to mind is HAL 9000, a fictional AI character and the main antagonist in the Space Odyssey series. For some younger generations, the word AI might refer to humanlike Ava from Ex Machina. However, AI is basically a complex web of computational frameworks and the media can play a pivotal role in explaining the same to people around the world.

The position paper created with input of leading researchers, professionals, institutes and companies representing the culture and media sector aims to connect the power of culture and media. AI is already being used to detect fake news, annotate heritage collections or compose music. The paper argues that there is a need for more funding to create a “structural and efficient application” of AI in culture and media.

The paper notes that the culture and media sector in the Netherlands reaches more than 15 million people daily and contributes €58B or 3.7 per cent of GDP. The authors of the paper argue that the culture and media sector thus forms the link to an AI-ready society. They also note that the current pace of digitisation can disrupt core democratic principles and risk well-being and economic growth.

In order to ensure a smooth functioning society, they argue in favour of an AI society where all the layers are involved. The paper recommends areas of focus including ethical and legal preconditions, value creation through AI and diversity.

Scope of the culture and media sector

The position paper explains in detail how the culture and media sector can play an important role in advancing the productive and desirable use of AI in society. The paper explains how culture gives content and context to the way of life and how culture itself is built through social interaction and debate.

“Social institutions and organisations in the culture and media sector play an essential role,” the authors write in the paper, explaining the role of the sector in creating a unanimous societal value.

The authors also detail how the development of culture and media is greatly influenced by the use of technology – from writing to printing, from broadcasting technology to digitisation. The paper further elaborates how we are only getting started on understanding how AI plays a role in society and the importance of culture and media in the field of AI.

AI for culture

The paper tries to summarise the role of the culture and media sector in transforming society under its “AI for culture” slogan. In the paper, the author establishes how AI is changing the way we give meaning to the world around us, in both its capacity as a technology but also as a cultural practice.

AI and its importance should be understood in the field of culture and media through its social significance to an audience of citizens and consumers. It is thus important, the authors argue, for the cultural sector to keep building on more traditional methods of targeting the public, such as theatre and performing arts, in addition to digital means.

“It is true that AI can help to empower numerous creators, make the cultural industries more efficient and increase the number of artworks, which is in the interest of the public. However, there are still very few artists and entrepreneurs that know how to use tools such as machine learning. In addition, the commercial logic of the large platforms may lead to increasing concentration of supply, data and income and to the impoverishment of cultural expressions in the long term,” says Argentinian philosopher Octavio Kulesz.

AI for media

The position paper starts with an interesting stat of every resident of the Netherlands older than eight spending an average of 221 times looking at their smartphone. The paper shows that these residents are often looking at news from friends, broadcasters, colleagues, school, companies and even specific platforms. As a result, the media sector produces more data than any other sector.

This generation of data is tied to the fourth major wave in the digital transformation of the media industry. The paper explains that AI connects and strengthens the effects of the previous developments within the digital model. In the paper, the example is cited of how data is harvested online to “realise a more personalised offer for consumers”.

The authors say that the distinction between the media and culture sector is blurring and the use of AI has led to a convergence in these industries. They also want the government to look at the ratio from the media industry to an adjacent sector like the technology industry.

The authors also look at the dependence of local media companies on the tech sector and how the survival of local media has become challenging in the last few years. They argue that new ways must be developed to derive optimum value in the media industry.

They say creative professionals in the media industry should learn new ways of working and types of output possible with AI. Further, the paper asks humans to evaluate what value they can add if generative AI can do their jobs partially. In a nutshell, the paper urges creative professionals and the media industry at large to understand the significance of AI for essential values while keeping a close eye on negative implications including deepfakes and disinformation.

Connecting the power of culture and media

The position paper aims to explore opportunities, possibilities and a strategic view to the future of culture and media. It also aims to serve as a guideline for monitoring cohesion in the sector. The paper further demonstrates the impact of the Dutch Coalition (NLAIC) in studying the impact of this revolutionary technology in various fields.

In conclusion, the paper illustrates the need for investments, both within the sector and the government, to take full advantage of AI. The innovation in the media and culture industry, according to NLAIC, will help pave the way for other sectors as well. While a thriving ecosystem is now emerging, the authors say that the paper will serve as an “inspiration and a starting point for a new initiative”.

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