Machine Media: A Hands-On Introduction to Machine Learning and Generative Art

Fall 2024

Course Description

Recent developments in Machine Learning platforms like Dall-E and Midjourney have created a frenzy around 'AI art'. While media outlets question whether AI will replace artists, this interdisciplinary course focuses instead on situating Machine Learning within a larger history of generative art. In this introductory course, we will unpack some of the commonly used terms surrounding Machine Learning and consider the historical relationship between machines and creativity. We will also learn about networks of human labor, ecological resources, and funding structures behind Machine Learning. In addition to readings, students will think through these issues by working with Machine Learning in a hands-on way. Students will spend the semester working slowly and intentionally to prepare a dataset of images that will be used to create their own Machine Learning model. No prior coding experience is required and students will not be evaluated on their technical ability. Instead, we will use the process of designing a dataset and building a model as a catalyst for discussing more ethical and nuanced approaches to thinking with and about machines, and how these approaches might translate across disciplines. This course is cross-listed with Experimental Humanities.