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Research projects

Digital Citizenship and AI Image Practices

The purpose of the project is to 1): Investigate how new image practices, driven by artificial intelligence, can play different roles in developing citizenship; and 2): To use these insights as foundation for developing a larger application on research in visual, digital citizenship. Through 2023, the project conducts four artist-driven workshops with different external partners, a joint seminar, and a final writing workshop.

The project is generously funded with 100,000 DKK by SHAPE – Shaping Digital Citizenship, https://shape.au.dk/en/

NEW VISIONS: Image cultures in the era of AI

Dec. 2022 – Dec. 2026

The research project ‘NEW VISIONS: Image cultures in the era of AI’ investigates how vision and image analysis in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) informs and changes cultural understandings and uses of images.The project provides thorough humanistic analyses of how the current technical redistribution of what is visible/invisible, viewer/viewed, image creator/consumer in contemporary AI vision practices relates to cultural redistributions of who has the power to look, decide what we look for, suggest how we act as objects of new gazes, and how we create and use images.

The project explores two overall questions: What aesthetic and epistemological consequences do new AI image practices have? and further, how do these consequences manifest themselves in a broader cultural and societal context? The primary activity of analyzing cultural implications is conducted by comparing humanistic knowledge on vision and images with new practices in AI vision. Specifically, the project focuses on how AI face filters and deepfakes in popular culture alter relations between face and identity, and on how the concepts of representation and truths are negotiated in the different ways AI images aim to produce knowledge.

‘NEW VISIONS: Image cultures in the era of AI’ is generously funded with 2MM DKK by Aarhus University Research Foundation (https://auff.au.dk/en) and runs Dec. 2022 – Dec. 2026. The project is carried out by Lotte Philipsen (PI) and postdocs Lea Laura Michelsen and Maja Bak Herrie.

The limits of AI semiotics: A pilot study probing generative AI image models’ understanding of causality and abstraction

Maja Bak Herrie and Danish Technological Institute investigate the foundational limitations to the way state-of-the-art AI image generation models respond to different types of visual signification, i.e., their understanding of the relation between the prompt and what that prompt means. While AI image generation models show great promise in simulating high quality imagery, they also tend to fail in subtle and strange ways: producing hands with 6 fingers or text that resembles no language. Applying the semiotics of Charles S. Peirce, specifically his tripartite model of signs, the project explores how successfully different image generation models respond to prompts relying on each of the three different types of signification in Peirce’s model and trace the results back to the underlying techniques used to make the models. The results of these experiments, whether positive or negative, open new questions of the depth or shallowness of AI image generation models’ understanding of signs.

Maja Bak Herrie has received seed funding from Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University to undertake the project in 2023. 

Automatic Uprisings: Archiving a Techno-Social Sculpture

PhD project carried out by Asker Bryld Staunæs and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, May 2023 – April 2026.

The project is artistic research between School of Communication and Culture, AU and Kunsthal Aarhus. It is both media-based and politically-engaged and explores new imaginaries for social protest with artificial intelligence (AI). The project’s practical aim is to document a potential network, The Synthetic International (SI), which depicts a global web of political parties driven by AIs. This offers an antidote to a centenary of doomsday visions on “the robot uprising” by explicating how this already takes place in today’s society. The SI artwork - a “techno-social sculpture” that follows in a tradition of e.g. Joseph Beuys - presents a series of participatory interfaces where one can engage with AI propaganda, twisted diagrams, etc. By facilitating exhibitions, labs, publications, workshops, and scholarly debate, Automatic Uprisings’ objective is to outline a form of digital citizenship where everyone contributes to determining the role of AI in democracy.