Shaping 21st Century AI: Controversies and Closure in Media, Policy, and Research

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Centre for Interdisc. Methodologies

Abstract

Talk about "artificial intelligence" (AI) is abundant. Politicians, experts and start-up founders tell us that AI will change how we live, communicate, work and travel tomorrow. Autonomous vehicles, the detection of illnesses, automated filtering of misinformation and hate speech - AI is seemingly set out to fix fundamental problems of our societies. At the same time, substantive concerns are raised that these developments might reinforce social and economic inequality, exacerbate the opacity of decision-making processes, and ultimately question human autonomy. Moreover, the direction of the scientific field itself is up for dispute, with leading practitioners of machine learning publicly disagreeing about the long-term importance of different approaches to designing and training these artificial agents.

This conjunction of dynamic technological developments and fundamental controversies sets the perfect scene for a comparative, longitudinal inquiry into how AI as a sociotechnical phenomenon is being integrated into our societies. Although we have seen spikes of interest in AI before, 21st-century AI is currently in its formative stage - unsettled in the public debate, but also in expert policy and research communities. And while progress in machine learning has long come in the form of experiments, today these 'experiments' take place in our everyday lived environment; this is the implicit subtext of the profusion of publications of consultancy surveys, ethics whitepapers, national AI strategies, and large redeployments of research funding.

The proposed project seeks to contrast both regional and globalized trajectories in four key countries: Canada, France, the UK, and Germany. Within and across these countries, the project compares and relates to each other-using historical, ethnographic, and computational methods appropriate to each case-the discourse and developments around AI's "deep learning revolution" over 10 formative years (2012 to 2021) in three layers: in the media, in the policy space, and in the research community.

The field work builds on and extends the "cartographie de controverses" that has been developed at the Media Lab, Sciences Po. The media analysis will investigate AI debates in major news outlets, niche websites and social media conversation. The policy analysis will map and analyze the existing policy initiatives, whitepapers and regulations in each country, with careful attention to their rationales. Policy analysis will employ select expert interviews and social media conversations to contextualise policy developments.The research analysis will map publication archives and scientific communities as well as experiment with ethnographic embedding in relevant workshops and conferences where AI intersects with social issues (e.g. of online propaganda or of bias in machine learning models). In addition, the project will investigate and instigate formats of public engagement by hosting participatory workshops that enable stakeholders and members of the public to debate and negotiate AI pathways. Each of these analyses and interventions will not be conducted in a stand-alone manner, but will reflexively inform one another.

This particular research design allows the project to retrace how 21st-century AI has been repeatedly constructed as both a problem and a solution: how throughout its brief history and unknown future, AI cultures negotiate across controversies and (apparent) closure without the scope of "AI" ever being fully defined.This international, comparative, multi-methodological study with a clear commitment to public knowledge and engagement seeks to extend and redistribute the range of expertise that is relevant to ensure that the coming of AI is truly for the greater good.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Our online consultation has identified the top areas of concern in AI and Society in the UK expert community (facial recognition, large language models, tracking and targetting and corporate research culture). Our social media analysis of selected AI research controversies has identified the main areas of disagreement and the diverse constituenties involved in these controversies (with large language models dominated by industry researchers while data sharing infrastructures has strong participation of professions). We are currently in the progress of writing up these findings, which will be accompanied by a report for professional audiences.
Exploitation Route The report for professional audiences is expected to indentify key areas of technological risk and societal benefits investigated in AI research in the UK. We are in conversation with the UK Office for AI and the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to identify areas of future research that can build on these insights
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://warwickcim.github.io/shifting-ai-controversies-workshop/
 
Description Our online consultation (Autumn 2021) and participatory research activities (March 2023, ongoing) involved partners in the UK Office for AI, the Governments Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, the Office of Statistics Regulation, Zoopla Data Science, Amnesty Tech, Human Rights Watch and the Serpentine Creative AI Lab. We are currently in the process of writing up our research findings and will work with partners in these organisations to communicate our evidence and inform policy objectives.
First Year Of Impact 2023
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

 
Description Beyond the lab: An empirical philosophy of intelligent vehicle testing in the UK
Amount £55,000 (GBP)
Funding ID RF-2021-603 
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2022 
End 06/2023
 
Title The Controversy Shape Shifter 
Description The Shaping AI team developed a data-led social design method for the collaborative evaluation of AI controversies. The method combines the creation of a controversy dossier composed of controversy mappings with an interactive protocol for controversy evaluation and a material-set up for the collaborative creation of controversy shapes. We implemented this method for the first time in the engagement workshop that took place on 10 March in Friends House (London) with 35 participants from government, industry, academia and the arts. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We aim to publish a research paper introducing our method and to explore the creation of a methods toolkit for collaborative controversy mapping, with partners. A description of the analysis underlying the composition of the controversy dossiers was made available online via GitHub at https://warwickcim.github.io/shifting-ai-controversies-workshop/ 
URL https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/cim/events/shai/
 
Title Twitter data sets for Selected AI research controversies (2016-2022) 
Description Twitter data was downloaded using the Twitter Research Track API for 5 queries identifying AI research controversies by publication URLs, author names and hashtags. The number of tweets downloaded for each controversy ranged from 24K to 313K. These tweets were downloaded as text files which were then parsed by a Python script and stored in a single table in a Postgres database. This enables conversation-level analysis of micro-controversies (reply chain analysis, LDA topic and BERT topic analysis). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact We intend to make available these Twitter data sets as open data sets alongside the related research publications we are currently preparing. 
 
Description Algorithms, Data and Democracy Project 
Organisation Roskilde University
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution From August 2021 I have been affiliated with the Algorithms, Data and Democracy Research project, a 13 million Euro 10 year Danish research project funded by the Veluxen Foundation, as the Chair of the Advisory Board. This collaboration is closely related with the Shaping AI project, as the ADD project includes as one of the principal workpages a digital data mapping of AI controversies in Denmark. We have hosted two joint data sessions of Shaping AI team members and the ADD team, and are co-editing a special issue of Big Data and Society with Anders Munk, PI on the Danish controversy mapping, to enable allignment and exchange of findings, and Shaping AI PI Marres and ADD PI Torben Elgaard Jensen and Anders Munk have co-hosted an open panel consisting of 3 sessions on AI Controversies at the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Annual Meeting (Madrid July 2022). We have hosted several sessions to allign the Shaping AI and
Collaborator Contribution Co-hosting joint data sessions, Co-hosting the open panel at EASST, co-editing a journal special issue.
Impact Marres, N. Katzenbach, C. and A, Jobin and A. Munk, Articifial Intelligence Controversies, Special Issue, Big Data and Society. The proposal for this Special Issue was accepted by the Big Data and Society Editorial Board in November 2022. Publication is expected for end of 2023, early 2024. Marres, N., Castelle, M, B. Gobbo, J. Tripp and C. Poletti, AI as super-controversy : the making of extended peer communities, to be submitted to Big Data and Society, May 2023. Munk Anders Kristian(TANT Lab, University of Aalborg), Torben Elgaard Jensen (TANT Lab, University of Aalborg), Mathieu Jacomy (TANT Lab, University of Aalborg), AI is not the issue: Controversy mapping in the age of the algorithm, to be submitted to Big Data and Society, April 2023.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Visiting Professor at the EHESS 
Organisation L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution In May 2022 I will visit the "Laboratoire interdisciplinaire d'e´tudes sur les re´flexivite´s" at the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris) to deliver four lectures in the thematic area "Artificial Intelligence and Society." I was specifically invited based on my current research on this theme, as this is now a priority area of the EHESS, a prestiguous institute for advanced study in social science.
Collaborator Contribution The EHESS is a worldleading research centre for empirical social science research on public controversies and the sociology of valuation. Interactions with colleagues at the EHESS will enable the evaluation of provisional results and our wider research strategy in mapping controversies about AI & society.
Impact I contributed an article to a Special Issue of Pragmata, a French journal on Pragmatism and Social Science edited by colleagues from the EHESS following my stay
Start Year 2022
 
Description Visiting Professor in the DFG funded SFB Media of Co-operation 
Organisation University of Siegen
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Secondment from the University of Warwick to the University of Siegen of PI Marres as Visiting Professor, to lead research on technology testing in society and social studies of computational infrastructures (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles ted beds, Covid testing). This has resulted in a joint workshop on AI testing in society, a key note on AI testing "beyond the lab", a joint two-day data sprint, and two shared publications are in preparation.
Collaborator Contribution The University of Siegen hosts the MEdia of Co-operation SFB (Centre of Excellence), a five year programme with a series of post-doctoral appointments and PhD posts. Siegen has hosted a two-day international conference on technology testing in society, co-hosting of the data sprint, and contributing data analysis to the latter.
Impact In process: Noortje Marres (University of Warwick) and Philippe Sormani (University of Lausanne), Testing 'AI': Do We Have a Situation? - A Conversation, working paper, University of Siegen.
Start Year 2021
 
Description EASST Open Panel Articifial Intelligence Controversies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI Marres co-hosted an open panel on Artificial Intelligence Controversies during the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) bi-annual meeting in Madrid. The panel received more than 45 paper submissions of which 14 were accepted. Each of the four sessions were attended by between 40 and 80 attendees.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://easst2022.org/panelresults.asp
 
Description Important and Possibly Overlooked: Mapping AI Controversies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI presented provisional results of the Shaping AI research project at TILT, Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) in collaboration with the Public Administration research group with about 40 experts in law, technology and society in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://twitter.com/SRanchordas/status/1630950197365821440
 
Description Interview about AI and Society in Portuguese national media 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed on the challenges of AI testing and development digital societies for the main Portuguese news platform SAPO by Joao Lobata
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://www.sapo.pt/noticias/atualidade/artigos/chatgpt-ha-uma-cultura-de-inovacao-que-legitima-a-pr...
 
Description Machine Learning and the Calculation of Meaning workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI Marres and CoI Castelle were invited to participate in the King's College London workshop "On Machine Learning, the Calculation of Meaning, and the Politics of Knowledge" that took place in the Department for Digital Humanities on 9th December 2022. This included participants from the Serpentine Gallery CreativeAILab and the University of Amsterdam AI and Society expert group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ddh/research/projects
 
Description Member of COST project Language in the Human-Machine-Era (LITHME) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Co-Investigator M Castelle is a Member of COST (European Cooperation in Science & Technology) project Language in the Human-Machine-Era (LITHME), Working Groups WG1 (Computational Linguistics) and WG6 (Ideologies, Beliefs, Attitudes). The project began in October 2020 and will end in October 2024
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://lithme.eu/
 
Description Online consultation with experts in AI & society 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Year 1 of the project is focused on mapping controversies about AI research from a UK perspective. We designed this activity as a participatory research engagement and invited 250 UK-based experts in AI & society, with backgrounds in research, policy, advocacy and business, to identify the most important and possibly overlooked controversial developments in AI research in the last 10 years. Around 60 experts completed their responses. We will invite up to a 100 of these xperts to a stakeholder engagement event in September 2022, where we will present the provisional results of our controversy mapping, and discuss next steps, as well as invite feed-back on the usefulness of methods of controversy mapping from a policy and practitioner point of view.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Online expert consultation on AI controversies 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 150 UK-based experts in AI were invited to participate in an online expert consultation to identify and review what are the most important controversies in AI research in the last 10 years.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
 
Description Shifting AI Controversies Engagement workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact 35 experts in AI and Society from academia, government, industry, the arts and civil society participated in a one-day research engagement event at Friends' House London
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2023
URL https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/cross_fac/cim/events/shai/
 
Description The Transformer Architecture and Its Implications 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Shaping AI co-investigator Michael Castelle gave Keynote presentation at the AI, Ethics & Society MSt course residential session at the University of Cambridge on 9th Jannuary 2023
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/mst-ai-ethics-and-society
 
Description Why we need a Durkheim test for AI 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was invited to give a key-note lecture about AI and Society at the Polish Sociologycal Congress in September 2022. The lectures will be published in an edited volume on Social Theory and AI edited by prof Anthony Elliot.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://zjazdpts.pl/sympozja/algorithms-artificial-intelligence-beyond-theorising-society-and-cultur...