In working through the Middlebury assignment and visual and design assignment from the Assignment Bank, a few lessons and a few questions become apparent. We found pros and cons to AI image generators. Can we call what AI produces design? Is it art? I think no, because the decision-making processes at the heart of art and design are absent, and replaced by statistical averaging. Many years ago, one of my painting teachers, in critiquing the work of Bob Ross, defined art as “a constant process of exploration and discovery.” While there is exploration and discovery involved in playing with image generators, it’s not embodied in the products. It arises rather through the reflection on playing with the tools and evaluating the output. AI does sometimes produce something unexpected, which Bob Ross might call “happy accidents.” We could use those for inspiration and build upon them.
How is using AI to generate images different from copying existing images from the web? Aside from the copyright issues, of course. If we don’t build on AI-generated images, alter them or give them some context, did we really learn anything? Going forward, I think we should be using AI tools and products as a springboard or an enhancement, but to always work at making the output better, so it represents our work and our creative and aesthetic decision-making. And we should be sure to explain that decision-making process in our blog posts. To paraphrase a famous quote:
Some things I’d like to highlight from the blogs this week:
- I’m sure it largely depends on the input, but some image generators show a lack of novelty. Ask for a superhero, get the most common or super-average.
- On the other hand, sometimes they produce something unexpected. Note the Serengeti Express detail in the image of the lion by the train. It makes sense in the context, but it wasn’t part of the instructions.
- They seem to handle iconic figures well, even in novel situations. The Underwater Elvis looks like something that belongs on a cartoon network.
- I liked the observation that art “will feel less alive” if it’s generated by AI, in addition to the Nixon golf cart mishap.