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Design, A.I., and Afro-nowism

Co-produced with Department of the History of Art and Architecture

About the Event


Apr 25, 4:30 – 6pm


Tisch Library: Room 304, 35 Professors Row, Medford

In 2020 Stephanie Dinkins coined the term “Afro-now-ism”, which she described as “the spectacular technology of the unencumbered black mind.” A play on Afrofuturism, Afro-now-ism acknowledges the urgencies of racial injustice, climate disaster, and their collisions by forsaking speculation in favor of immediate action — today. Artificial Intelligence is rapidly changing the way we write, think, design, and produce. Its potentials for and consequences to design, artistic production, student work, and creative thinking are vast and largely unknown. This panel brings together designers, programmers, and academics thinking and working at the intersection of race and Artificial Intelligence to consider both the promise and risks of machine learning and data driven scholarship and design, especially as it relates to just outcomes.

AI systems are trained on a data set that reflects historical discrimination. As we have already seen, that does not dampen our ability to evaluate and shape what we ask of AI. Though data is not a material without history, what we produce and design with AI is profoundly shaped by our own biases, choices, and value sets. This transdisciplinary panel seeks to bring together both “back end” and “front end” producers. On the back end how can algorithms be designed to address embedded bias? On the front end how can content produced with AI platforms be directed towards the production of a critical historical consciousness? What role can and must regulating policy play? What can those working closely with AI tell us about its future?

This program is funded by the Data Intensive Studies Center (DSIC).


Curry J. Hackett is a transdisciplinary designer, public artist, and educator. His design and research practice, Wayside, looks to under-recognized patterns, narratives, and histories to inspire emergent forms of media, building, and art. Noteworthy projects include the Howard Theatre Walk of Fame, his critical research on Blackness and land, and his recent experiments with artificial intelligence. His ongoing research project, Drylongso, explores the relationships between Blackness and land, and has received funding from the Washington Project for the Arts, the Journal of Architectural Education, and the Graham Foundation. Hackett’s work and writing have been featured in Bloomberg/Citylab, eflux, Metropolis, Architect Magazine, and the Washington Post.

Minne Atairu is an interdisciplinary Artist, and doctoral student in the Art and Art Education program at Teachers College Columbia University. Minne’s research emerges at the intersection of Machine Learning, Art Education and Hip-Hop Pedagogy. Through the use of Artificial Intelligence (StyleGAN, GPT-3), Minne recombines historical fragments, sculptures, texts, images and sounds to generate synthetic Benin Bronzes which often hinge on questions of repatriation, and post-repatriation. For Minne’s residency at the movement lab, she will focus on developing a CGI film using motion and facial capture technologies.

Anna Haensch is a senior data scientist in the Tufts University Data Intensive Studies Center with a secondary appointment in the Department of Mathematics and an appointment in the Fletcher Graduate School for Global Affairs. She earned a PhD in mathematics from Wesleyan University. Her research lies at the intersection of mathematics and the social sciences and it deals with the many ways that we can connect data-driven systems to policy to make a safer, more sustainable, and more equitable world.