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Restricting creativity: tech companies and the growing censorship in the digital world

In the NZZ am Sonntag from 7 January 2024, Denise Bucher discusses the growing control over content by tech companies in Silicon Valley and its impact on art and freedom of expression. The censorship of films on Amazon Prime and Apple and the restrictive guidelines on platforms such as Instagram and Twitch are cited as examples. The dependence on these companies leads to self-censorship and harbours the risk of losing digital artworks, especially when older versions of AI programmes are shut down. In the article, Manuel Flurin Hendry talks about his installation “The Feeling Machine”, in which a character played by the AI “Stanley” interacts with a real woman. Stanley plays the role of a therapist who initially annoys with therapy platitudes, but then betrays and insults her. The artist emphasises that the newer, more heavily censored versions of chat GPT would no longer be able to preserve the creative and provocative element of his project. Progressive censorship in language models is affecting artistic freedom and making creators look for alternatives to preserve their work. In order to achieve the desired creative result, Manuel Hendry therefore uses the older version of Chat-GPT and utilises the old programming interface.

“Conversations with Stanley” is funded as part of the 1st Outreach Call. The project enables the public to have conversations in real time with an emotionally responsive artificial intelligence. It aims to make technology tangible in a low-threshold way, encourage critical reflection and open up a public and broad debate on the role of algorithms in our society.

Manuel Hendryworks at the ZHdK in the Department of Performing Arts & Film. In addition to “Conversations with Stanley“, cineMINDS, a knowledge archive of film art, is also supported as part of the innovation program.