Can Machines Be Artists? A Deweyan Response in Theory and Practice

Still, Arthur and d'Inverno, Mark. 2019. Can Machines Be Artists? A Deweyan Response in Theory and Practice. Arts, 8(1), 36. ISSN 2076-0752 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

To speak comfortably of the machine artist (as outlined in the call for papers for this Special Issue) makes key assumptions about what it is to be an artist. It assumes, for instance, that the experience of living as an artist, which includes the socialisation, hard work, single-mindedness, and focused energy of creative activity, is incidental rather than essential since these aspects are not comfortably applicable to machines. Instead, it supposes that what is essential is the artistic product, and it is the similarity of human and machine products that makes it possible to speak of machine artists. This definition of art in terms of products is supported by modern psychological theories of creativity, defined as the generation of novel ideas which give rise to valuable products. These ideas take place in the mind or brain, regarded as a closed system within whose workings the secret of creativity will eventually be revealed. This is the framework of what is widely referred to as “cognitivism”. This definition in terms of novel ideas and valuable products has been widely assumed by artificial intelligence (AI) and computational creativity (CC), and this has been backed up through a particular version of the Turing Test. In this, a machine can be said to be a creative artist if its products cannot be distinguished from human art. However, there is another psychological view of creativity, that of John Dewey, in which a lived experience of inquiry and focus is essential to being creative. In this theory, creativity is a function of the whole person interacting with the world, rather than originating in the brain. This makes creativity a Process rather than a Cognitivist framework. Of course, the brain is crucial in a Process theory, but as part of an open system which includes both body and environment. Developments in “machine art” have been seen as spectacular and are widely publicised. But there may be a danger that these will distract from what we take to be the most exciting prospect of all. This is the contribution of computer technology to stimulate, challenge, and provoke artistic practice of all forms.

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creativity, art, art practice, AI, designing AI, John Dewey

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7 March 2019Accepted
19 March 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

20 Mar 2019 16:02

Last Modified:

04 Aug 2021 10:16

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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