Machine Learning Art as Scientific Research.

Arts-based research” means that the investigator uses his own artistic expression as means of enquiry (“artistic knowing”) or as an action-oriented research that aims a “change through art”.

This type of exploration carried out by artists, designers, curators, architects, writers and musicians contributes new concepts, methods and models in order to produce new and original knowledge to be shared by a community. Arts-based research is then by nature interdisciplinary, so practitioners must therefore be attuned to diverse methods and adept in communication and modes of collaboration. In this context, artistic practice goes beyond the physical activities of making products and can include influences, ideas, materials as well as tools and skills. The term “art practice” indeed refers to the ways in which an artist goes about his/her work.

So the idea that research can be conducted using nondiscursive means (pictures, music, performance, software…) is not an idea that is widely practiced in academic circles, because we tend to think about research as being formulated exclusively in words. Independent scholar Patricia Levy for example states that Arts-based research is not only a qualitative methodology, but a new paradigm itself, since the arts can create and convey meaning based in an aesthetic knowing. Tom Barone in the other hand remembers that in Western culture the determination of what is true depends upon the verification of claims made in propositional discourse, so our beliefs about what constitutes a legitimate research procedure have enormous ramifications for understanding human behavior and social interaction.

As profesor James Haywood Rolling Jr. writes in his article “A Paradigm Analysis of Arts-Based Research and Implications for Education“, this methodologies are emergent, imagined, and derivative from art practices which are capable of yielding outcomes taking researchers in directions the sciences cannot go. According to Maggi Savin-Baden and Katherine Wimpenny the researcher uses media both to create artifacts and to use them as a means of understanding and examining the impact of these on peoples’ lives, so arts-based research is a methodology that transcends the arts and social sciences in order to reflect a more diverse human experience.


Nowadays artists are beginning to experiment with Artificial Intelligence and change their relationship with technology, which now becomes more of an ideation partner rather than simply a tool for the conception of cultural artifacts. Memo Akten for example uses emerging technologies as both a medium and a subject matter, looking at its impact on us as individuals, as an extension of our mind and body, and its impact on society, culture, tradition, ritual, etc… On the other side, members of french collective Obvious believe that the value of their project lays in the debate it can create through the exposure of new AI tools to the public. From this point of view we can understand Machine Learning as an art practice where an aesthetic sensitivity on the part of the machine might help lead to a friendlier and more sensitive Artificial Intelligence in general. According to Blaise Agüera y Arcas -founder of the Artists and Machine Intelligence program at Google– the transformation of artistic practice and theory that attended the 19th century photographic revolution is equal to the current revolution in machine intelligence which promises to democratize the means of reproduction and production.

So if we understand scientific research as those investigations conducted for the purpose of contributing towards science by the systematic collection, interpretation and evaluation of data, this new kind of art-based research in Machine Learning will help us imagine what Artificial InteIligence can become and how will influence our technoscientific world. Because the question of to what degree algorithms are tools, as opposed to active collaborators, is a very interesting debate in which the artists can contribute interesting reflections. There is no doubt that a mix of Computational Aesthetics with Cogntive Science will improve our understanding of the human mind and the unique capacity for creativity homosapiens have.

So in order to break through the barrier of disbelief, let’s keep moving forward investigating about Synthetic Creative Thinking which might be achieved with the current developments in Cognitive Computing!

*(Pictures: slideshare.net, thestar.com & giphy.com).

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