Conversations with Computers

Time: 17th & 18th of November 2021 – from 6pm
Place: KunstuniversitΓ€t Linz
Zeitbasiertes Wohnzimmer
Standort Domgasse 1, 4. OG
4020 Linz.

Conversations with Computers is a 2-day Symposium organized by the net culture initiative in cooperation with the Department of Time-based Media of the University of Art and Design Linz. The symposium addresses contemporary artistic research in the field of AI, focusing on new languages that emerge between humans and machines, but also how work and communication are facilitated through technological means.
When we talk about Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning today, we must not forget the enormous amount of human labor that is hidden in seemingly autonomous systems. Behind every computer program are an immense amount of people who make it possible, and whose presence, in most cases, stays hidden behind the interface. Moreover, these AI systems are built upon an extractivist logic that inherits and reproduces harmful social biases in their statistical weights. Artists, critical designers, and researchers are playing a central role in excavating AI systems by exposing the work that flows into the creation of large datasets and their refinement.
By stepping back and exploring the codes and symbols we use to create instructions for machines, artists and programmers are fundamentally questioning the desire for efficiency embedded within the act of programming computers. What is discussed under the label of 'Esoteric programming languages' breaks away from the norms of computing and create novel languages and styles with strange syntax and twisted logic. Within these fringes of programming languages, we can find a desire to untangle and obfuscate the building blocks of human-computer interaction, while critical code studies are articulating discourse around feminist, decolonial, indigenous, and queer approaches to AI and the Human.
With forthcoming large language models, new conversational agents are emerging, which distill scraped websites into stochastic parrots. They lead to advancements, which enable more natural forms of interaction between humans and computers.
A look into the future suggests that we will soon be living with anthropomorphized computers, which are designed with an obedient personality that mimics empathy and emotion. Current models of voice computer interfaces already simulate personalities to gain a user’s trust. Designers are optimizing for approachability, efficiency, and by all means, to avoid friction. Yet, at the fringes of computation, we can find points of friction, and exploitation, but also new experiments and poetic communication.
Taking examples from esolangs and analytical design practices, how do we envision new critical interfaces between humans and machines? How do we navigate through our increasingly computational environments with our silicon-based friends?

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