Griffin Smith is a digital artist using generative AI and language bots. He designed the first AI studio courses at both RISD and Brown University and has collaborated with researchers, authors and artists to build custom neural networks, AI language models and VR installations.
His extended series Zero Shot (2018–19) trained an early GPT precursor on poetry, simulating authors’ voices to ask how an art style manifests as patterns in data. This question now hangs over every art institution in the world. Smith’s classes place contemporary tools in an art-historical context, detailing how computation has shaped the past 100 years of art.
His teaching research explores how AI can aid ESL students in writing and custom translations, as well as support early education for neurodiverse students. Artists will not be replaced by machines, but the next decade of creative augmentation, copyright law and a shifting art market will deeply impact every RISD student, regardless of discipline. Smith’s classes allow students to confront these topics with hope and focus rather than fear.
Fall 2023 Courses
DIGITAL CULTURE: HOW COMPUTERS TOOK OVER THE WORLD
This course provides a framework for understanding how and why digital technology came to define the modern world. We will first explore the history of “reasoning” machines from ancient automata to analogue computers, before turning to modern digital media. Readings will contextualize the past 100 years of digital history, introducing students to the cultural legacy of the personal computer, the internet, and AI. We’ll ask: how are computers unlike other technologies? How does digital media shape our perceptions? And how much of culture can we capture in data? Students will produce weekly reading responses, give oral presentations, and complete a final research project.
Prerequisite: HPSS-S101 for Undergraduate Students.
ART AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
"Art is either plagiarism or revolution" - Paul Gauguin. This studio course explores how AI’s rapid progress is challenging artists today. As we work with these exciting, terrifying new tools, we’ll discuss how artists have responded to transformative media of the past like the camera, the television, and the internet. How can we comment on the ethical concerns of AI technology? Should we change how we think about creativity? And who will the machines replace?
Students will experiment with new tools as they are released throughout the semester, as well as interview machine learning researchers and digital artists. Authors include: Walter Benjamin, Ray Kurzweil, Harold Cohen, N. Katherine Hayles, and Ted Chiang. No coding experience is required.
Estimated Cost of Materials: $100.00
Open to Sophomore, Junior, Senior or Graduate Students.
Wintersession 2024 Courses
TEXT TRANSFORMED: WRITING IN THE AGE OF AI
This hybrid seminar/studio considers the cultural impact of AI writing systems. Readings, discussion, and text experiments will explore how Large Language Models (LLMs) are complicating the future of authorship. How does GPT-4 work? What can it reveal about the nature of language? And what skills will be lost when machines do our writing for us? Topics include: Plato and the oral tradition, chance operations, Turing tests, and the emergence of computational linguistics. In-class workshops will apply machine learning tools to the practices of translation, revision, group writing, and spoken word (using AI voice clones). Students will submit weekly reading responses and a final research essay on a topic of their choice.