Creative AI: Models of Artistic Practice

How do artists use the backend of machine learning in their artworks? How is Machine Learning transforming the making of meaning? These were the questions brought about in the Creative AI Lab’s presentation during the National College of Art and Design, Dublin (NCAD) Digital Culture Webinar Series hosted by Elaine Hoey (New Media Artist) and Dr. Rachel O’Dwyer (Lecturer in Digital Cultures, NCAD).

Titled ‘Inquiring the Backend of Machine Learning Artworks: Making Meaning by Calculation’, the Creative AI Lab’s Eva Jäger (Associate Curator of Serpentine Galleries Arts Technologies) and Mercedes Bunz (Senior Lecturer in Digital Society, KCL) presented their research (video here) into how artists use the backend of Machine Learning (ML) to develop their work. Their presentation was followed by Zac Ionnidis’, who spoke about Forensic Architecture’s use of AI to automate parts of human rights monitoring research.

The research of the Creative AI Lab, a collaboration of the Department of Digital Humanities, KCL and the Serpentine Gallery, surfaced particular ways in which artists make use of machine learning in order to create models for engagement with these new technologies. Mercedes Bunz outlined some of the inspirations for the research, citing Zylinska’s book ‘AI Art: Machine Visions and Warped Dreams’ and Søren Pold’s ‘The Metainterface’. Further on, Eva Jäger explained why it was important to research the artistic usage of the back-end of ML. She elaborated on what constituted the back-end and said that this work often leads to an “alternate output which includes building or developing software and publishing/sharing research”.

Diagram showing back end and front end of AI artwork

Mercedes Bunz carried forward the presentation by arguing against the idea that humans are the only ones that can create meanings referring to work by Stuart Hall, who developed a more open approach when researching the encoding and decoding of meaning regarding television programs. Continue reading “Creative AI: Models of Artistic Practice”

Welcome to new Lecturers at the Department of Digital Humanities 🎊

A very warm welcome to all of our new members of staff at the Department of Digital Humanities! Joining us ahead of the next academic year we have:

  • Andrea Ballatore, Lecturer in Social and Cultural Informatics
  • Barbara McGillivray, Lecturer in Digital Humanities and Cultural Computation
  • Daniel Chavez Heras, Lecturer in Humanistic and Social Computing Education
  • Laura Gibson, Lecturer in Digital Content Management Education
  • Mike Duggan, Lecturer in Digital Culture, Society and Economy Education
  • Niki Cheong, Lecturer in Digital Culture and Society

Stuart Dunn, Reader and Head of the Department of Digital Humanities, comments:

“Our Department represents a broad range of digitally-driven teaching and research into the human record across numerous fields and disciplines; and also service, which draws on our traditions of excellence in the Digital Humanities to help society deal with the many challenges of the contemporary digital world. It is therefore my pleasure to welcome our new colleagues to DDH, who will help us build in all these areas, and consolidate and expand our strengths in the future”.

You can find out more about each of them in their bios below.

Continue reading “Welcome to new Lecturers at the Department of Digital Humanities 🎊”

Visiting Professor David Berry on Explainability and Interpretability as Critical Infrastructure Practice

David Berry is currently visiting the Department of Digital Humanities as Visiting Professor of Critical Theory and Digital Humanities. The following post from David introduces some of his current research on explainability and interpretability. He is giving a talk about this work at the Infrastructural Interventions workshop on Tuesday 22nd June.

I am very excited to be a Visiting Professor of Critical Theory and Digital Humanities at KCL in the Department of Digital Humanities in 2021 as KCL not only has a great research culture, but also really exciting projects which I have been learning about. Whilst I am at Kings, I have been working on a new project around the concept of Explainability called “Explanatory Publics: Explainability, Automation and Critique.” Explainability is the idea that artificial intelligence systems should be able to generate a sufficient explanation of how an automated decision was made, representing or explaining, in some sense, its technical processing. With concerns over biases in algorithms there is an idea that self-explanation by a machine learning system would engender trust in these systems. [1]

Trust is a fundamental basis of any system, but it has to be stabilised through the generation of norms and practices that create justifications for the way things are. This is required for automated decision making, in part, because computation is increasingly a central aspect of a nation’s economy, real or imaginary. I argue that this is important under conditions of computational capitalism because when we call for an explanation, we might be able to better understand the contradictions within this historically specific form of computation that emerges in Late Capitalism. I have been exploring how these contradictions are continually suppressed in computational societies and generate systemic problems borne out of the need for the political economy of software to be obscured so that its functions and the mechanisms of value generation are hidden from public knowledge.

I argue that explainability offers a novel and critical means of intervention into, and transformation of, digital technology. By explanatory publics, I am gesturing to the need for frameworks of knowledge, whether social, political, technical, economic or cultural, to be justified through a social right to explanation. Explanations are assumed to tell us how things work and thereby giving us the power to change our environment in order to meet our own ends. Indeed, for a polity to be considered democratic, I argue that it must ensure that its citizens are able to develop a capacity for explanatory thought in relation to the digital (in addition to other capacities), and able to question ideas, practices and institutions in a digital society. So this also includes the corollary that citizens can demand explanatory accounts from technologies, institutions and artificial intelligences in the digital technologies they rely on.

The notion of explainability offers a critical point of intervention into these debates. By addressing the problem of creating systems that can explain their automated decision-making processes, the concept of justification becomes paramount. However, many current discussions of explainability tend to be chiefly interested in creating an explanatory product, whereas I argue that an understanding of the explanatory process will have greater impacts for algorithmic legitimacy and democratic politics.

[1] Within the field of AI there is now a growing awareness of this problem of opaque systems and a sub-discipline of “explainable AI” (XAI) has emerged and begun to address these very complex issues – although mainly through a technical approach.

New ERC Project Exploring the Intersection between Surveillance and Morality

‘Smart cities’, ‘employee assistance programmes’, the pervasive language of ‘security’ – the implementation of surveillance technologies has consistently been framed in relation to moral ideas. This ambiguity has been observed by surveillance scholars for many years, David Lyon once describing the alternating ends of ‘care’ and ‘control’ which these technologies serve. Yet the study of surveillance has predominantly concerned itself with the latter. This ERC-funded project, recently initiated through the Department of Digital Humanities, opens up a different range of questions. If morality is the medium through which surveillance technologies have so often been popularly legitimized, then what if there is a history of the phenomenon yet to be written – in which surveillance proliferates not as a lever in power relations – but through these accepted notions of ‘the good’.

The project is anchored in the discipline of anthropology, involving four ethnographies that explore everyday relationships to digital monitoring. This shapes its epistemological approach in two important ways. The first is a conceptual collectivism. Although many of the ethnographic encounters will be with individuals, the focus is not on individuals per se, but on the role that digital monitoring plays in the mediation of their wider relationships, both intimate but also potentially very abstract. The second is a sensitivity to cultural difference. With two studies in each country, the project erects a binary contrast between Germany and Britain, as places with visibly distinct histories and attitudes towards surveillance. Aside from modest opposition to the introduction of ID cards, the response to the intensification of surveillance in Britain has been placid, even sympathetic. By contrast, Germany has witnessed widespread civic mobilizations against monitoring over the past forty years: from the census protests of the 70s and 80s, to more recent protests against the retention of data by mobile phone companies, or the boycotting of image collection by Google StreetView. Through this comparison the project aims to problematize this question of the good further. What kinds of collective experiences are being drawn on when people support or oppose surveillance?

Overall, the study pivots around the moral ambivalence of surveillance that members of highly technologized societies increasingly find themselves faced with. If surveillance enables forms of care – for the body, the friend, the family, the nation – cannot their insalubrious applications simply be overlooked? It is this moral tangle that, we offer, consistently inhibits restrictions on the growth of these technologies. By studying, through long-term ethnographic fieldwork, how and why people themselves use monitoring technologies voluntarily, we aim to establish greater clarity on those modes of monitoring that support human health, happiness and dignity – and those that are inimical to it.


Surveillance and Moral Community: Anthropologies of Monitoring in Germany and Britain, ERC Project No. 947867, is led by Dr Vita Peacock.



Day of Digital Humanities 2021

This is a collection of blog posts members of the department contributed to the annual Day of Digital Humanities, a global online event which was this year themed on ‘multilingual digital humanities’. These were originally published on the Language Acts & Worldmaking website at and


Introduction by Paul Spence

This year’s Day of Digital Humanities event Day of DH 2021 presents another opportunity to engage with the wider digital humanities community through a series of interactions channelled through Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #dayofdh2021. The focus this year is on ‘multilingual DH’, a topic which has been at the centre of my research in the last four or five years, and which has thankfully started to gain traction in recent years through initiatives such as the multilingual Open Methods initiative, multi-language versions of the Programming Historian and multilingual DH. As Quinn Dombrowski remarked recently, “Multilingual DH is suddenly blooming”.

I asked colleagues from the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London to describe research they are doing on multilingual digital studies. What follows are a few examples of their work.

Continue reading “Day of Digital Humanities 2021”

“Infrastructural Interventions”: Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop, 21-22nd June 2021

The Department of Digital Humanities, King’s Digital Lab and the Critical Infrastructures Studies Initiative ( are co-hosting an event on “Infrastructural Interventions” on 21-22nd June 2021, organised by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, Marie Curie Research Fellow at King’s.

The event includes talks and discussions with Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, Alan Liu, Laura Mandell, Matthew K. Gold, Susan Brown, Lauren F. Klein, Paola Ricaurte Quijano, Jonathan Gray, James Smithies, Arianna Ciula and David M. Berry.

Participation is free and you can register here. Further details are copied below. Full abstracts and bios can be found on the Critical Infrastructure Studies website.

The Digital Humanities & Critical Infrastructure Studies Workshop Series aims to enliven discussion about infrastructure from the perspective of Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, as a contribution to the emerging field of Critical Infrastructure Studies. The first workshop in the series, “Infrastructural Interventions,” brings together leading thinkers in Digital Humanities (DH) who interrogate the nature and fragility of infrastructure at individual, social, and planetary scales, and attempt to reconfigure their nature from social justice, feminist and decolonial perspectives. The following questions will guide us through the discussion: How, precisely, did our contemporary digital infrastructure evolve? How are different actors challenging, contesting and creating alternatives to official data infrastructures? How can DH infrastructure be informed by an analysis of power—and even actively challenge existing power imbalances? How might DH infrastructure reject the hierarchical and other divisions that currently structure DH work? How can digital humanists reimagine and rebuild the world differently through infrastructure?

The workshop will take place on the Microsoft Teams platform. (How to join a Teams meeting.) Registration for this event is now open through the Eventbrite. If you have any questions about the event, please don’t hesitate to contact the CIS collective:


21 June, Monday – 17.00 – 20.00 (UK time)

  • 17.00 – 17.10: Introduction by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, King’s College London, UK
  • 17.10 – 17.50 : Keynote by Alan Liu, University of California, Santa Barbara, US – “Digital Humanities and Critical Infrastructure Studies: An Overview,” 40min (chair: James Smithies)

Abstract: In this talk, Alan Liu provides an introduction to “critical infrastructure studies” and the place of the digital humanities in it. What have been the main approaches to infrastructure that today make the topic of such compelling socio-political, technological, media-informatic, cultural, historical, and artistic interest across the disciplines? How are the digital humanities positioned in relation to those approaches; and what is “critical” about that relation?

Useful links for citations and other material mentioned in the talk:

– Bibliography:

– “CI Studies Primer”:

– Syllabus for Alan Liu’s 2020 graduate seminar on “Critical Infrastructure Studies”:

  • 17.50 – 18.05: Discussion
  • 18.05 – 18.10: Break
  • 18.10 – 19.00: Session (chair: Urszula Pawlicka-Deger)

Laura Mandell, Texas A&M University, US – “Revitalizing the ARC Infrastructure through Linked Open Data”

Matthew K. Gold, CUNY Graduate Center, US – “An Open Opportunity: Free Software, Community-Supported Infrastructure, and the People’s University”

Susan Brown, University of Guelph, Canada – “(Re:)platforming”

  • 19.00 – 19.20: Discussion
  • 19.20 – 19.25: Break
  • 19.25 – 19.55: Projects discussion

Showcasing infrastructure-focused DH projects. More details soon!

  • 19.55 – 20.00: Conclusion

22 June, Tuesday – 17.00 – 19.10 (UK time)

  • 17.00 – 17.05: Introduction by Urszula Pawlicka-Deger, King’s College London, UK
  • 17.05 – 17.50: Session 1 (chair: Urszula Pawlicka-Deger)

Lauren F. Klein, Emory University, US – “What Does Feminist DH Infrastructure Look Like?”

Paola Ricaurte Quijano, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico – “The Fragility of Data and the Right to Infrastructures”

Jonathan Gray, King’s College London, UK – “Missing Data and Making Data: Data Infrastructural Interventions”

  • 17.50 – 18.10: Discussion
  • 18.10 – 18.15: Break
  • 18.15 – 18.45: Session 2 (chair: Arianna Ciula)

James Smithies, King’s College London, UK – “Rewinding our Assumptions: Digital Infrastructure as Emergent Phenomena”

David M. Berry, University of Sussex, UK – “Towards Critical Digital Humanities: Explainability and Interpretability as Critical Infrastructure Practice”

  • 18.45 – 19.05: Discussion
  • 19.05 – 19.10: Conclusion

You can find more details and abstracts on the Critical Infrastructures website.

The workshop is part of the MSCA project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 891155.

The MSCA research project website:



New Book: ’Yesterday’s News: The Future of Long-form Journalism and Archives’

A new book by Marco Braghieri entitled ‘Yesterday’s News – The future of long-form journalism and archives’ has been published by Peter Lang.

The book focuses on two entities (long-form journalism and archives) which sit at the intersection between journalistic production and the digital. While framed within digital humanities, this book deploys a number of methods, including text analysis as part of critical discourse analysis, case-study, digital methods, data profiling and data cleaning and semi-structured interviews in order to develop a new framing for long-form journalism and archives within the digital. The latter is the starting point of the book, which is defined as ‘digital landscape’, comprising three main entities (individuals, crowds and platforms). Their interactions have defined and influenced not only the media industry, but also have created new, possible connections between long-form journalism and archives, which are both relevant over time, digitised but not yet datafied entities and share possible new forms of aggregation and curation.

Yesterday's News Cover

The original image used for the cover is the original cover by the Italian graphic designer Giovanni Pintori, who designed the cover of ‘Musica per Parole’, a promotional record sold with the Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter in 1959.
The original image is courtesy of Archivio Storico Olivetti.

The book starts with a definition of the ‘digital landscape’ as “sets of interacting ecosystems”, based on two main features, such as “its nature as constant flux and a disruption enhancer”. Moving on to assess the relationship between this framework and media production, the book provides a definition of long-form journalism and two case studies. It then focuses on digital news outlets archives and their evolution over time. A final case study is then used to assess the possible new forms of aggregation and curation which could be connected to the datafication process regarding both long-form journalism and archives.

While this book tries to establish a framework for the digital and its relationship with contemporary media production, it also attempts to connect digital journalism and platform studies, in order to provide a framing for a multi-method analysis approach to media production in the digital age.

Further information on the book can be found here.

Georgian and Hungarian speaking data assistants needed on the DH project at King’s

We are hiring Georgian and Hungarian speaking data assistants for short-term positions to work on the cross-linguistic project ‘Distant Reading across Languages’ ( The deadline of applying is 15th May 2021. Please apply via King’s Talent Bank here:

If you have any questions about the positions, do not hesitate to contact Dr Gabriele Salciute Civiliene, PI and Lecturer in Digital Humanities Education, at

Marking work available at KCL in digital media & technology + digital culture

The Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London is looking for hourly paid lecturers to mark essay assignments in the areas of:

  • digital societies and platforms
  • digital economy & innovation
  • internet culture
  • social media and marketing
  • games and virtual realities
  • digital content management
  • digital curation in cultural institutions.

Most assignments are generally 4,000 words long and we calculate the lump sum of an hour (£20.99) per assignment. The work will be available beginning of May with four weeks to return the feedback and marks. The marker will need to demonstrate expertise in their areas and/or a PhD to take on work and have the right to work in the UK.

We look forward to hear from markers who are willing to take on 10/20/30 or 40 assignments. Please contact mercedes DOT bunz AT if you are interested or feel free to forward this blogpost if anyone comes to mind.

The international Martha Cheung Award for research excellence in the paper on cross-linguistic modelling and computing received by Dr Gabriele Salciute Civiliene

Dr Gabriele Salciute Civiliene, Lecturer in Digital Humanities Education at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, has been announced the winner of the 2021 Martha Cheung Award for Best English Article in Translation Studies by the SISU Baker Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, Shanghai International Studies University. The Award is established in honour of the late Professor Martha Cheung, formerly Chair Professor of Translation at Hong Kong Baptist University, for her seminal contribution to the reconceptualization of translation from non-Western perspectives. The Martha Cheung Award is one of the top awards in the field.

Gabriele Salciute Civiliene

Gabriele’s article “Between Surface and Depth: Towards embodied ontologies of text computing across languages”, published in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 45/2 (2020), has been praised on the Award page as a highly original, interdisciplinary contribution that offers new insights into the study of translation. It provides a critical consideration of what underlies the epistemo-methodological impasses of the mainstream approach to repetition in translation studies, and considers the possibility of a new practice for cross-linguistic quantitative reading. The article demonstrates how data visualization based on the computational analysis of translated text can illuminate our understanding of cognition and perception. Translation theory is shown to present an interesting problem for the Digital Humanities, one that fundamentally complicates text computing and challenges the flat dimensions of quantification. Dr. Salciute Civiliene draws on her research into the design of cross-linguistic distant reading and the modelling of repetition strings as equivalents of dynamic translatorial response to argue for and demonstrate the possibility of thick computing as suspended between textual surfaces and depths.”