Art and culture in the AI era; for good or ill?

SYAHIRAH MOKHTAZAR
SYAHIRAH MOKHTAZAR
03 Dec 2023 03:15pm
What is the future of art and culture in the AI era?
What is the future of art and culture in the AI era?
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Artificial Intelligence or AI for short, was the tech buzzword of 2023.

This simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think and learn like humans have fundamentally altered various facets of our lives.

One integral part of life is art and culture, as this is what molds our identity, shape our beliefs and values and mirror our creativity and innovation.

Malaysia prides itself in its rich and multifaceted art and culture. Our cultural identity has long been shaped by centuries of historical influences.

But with the rise of AI, art and cultural heritage gets intertwined with modernity. The burgeoning tech, if not already, is set to dominate the future. Is it for good or ill?

National Department of Culture and Arts assistant director Hesmel Faznee Ahmad Faisal said Malaysian art, with its rich heritage in dance, music and theatre, stands on the cusp of a revolutionary transformation.

“Propelled by the integration of AI, this shift is set to extend the creative frontiers far beyond traditional limits.

“The evolution goes beyond mere technological adoption - it signifies a profound shift in our cultural ethos in this digital age,” he said.

In fact, there was a proposed merger between the newly established Digital Ministry with the Culture and Art sector. He said that the fusion represents a deep and transformative reimagining of Malaysia’s artistic and cultural identity in our digitally nominated era.

Many argue that AI poses certain challenges and threats to traditional aspects of art and culture, but it’s not all negative.

Hesmel said the merger serves as an exemplar for other nations, to showcase how technology can be utilised to bolster, rather than diminish cultural identity.

“Malaysia’s balanced approach between technological progression and cultural preservation demonstrates that, in the right hands, technology can be a formidable ally in celebrating and elevating cultural heritage,” he said.

In a way, AI becomes a crucial ally in the preservation and safeguarding of Malaysia’s rich and diverse cultural legacy.

As the audience evolves, so does the need for personalised cultural experiences. AI is reshaping how audiences engage with arts and culture.

Imagine the digitisation of artifacts, manuscripts in digital format or museums with immersive experiences of cultural heritage where it allows visitors to explore historical sites in a virtual space.

It protects the physical integrity of these items but makes them accessible to the coming generations and global audience. AI-driven educational tools can make art and culture more engaging for the young ones to learn.

And in the realm of artisanal craftsmanship, AI heralds a transformative era, pushing the boundaries of creativity in traditional practices like batik design or traditional weaving.

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While it doesn’t replace artisans, AI acts as a collaborator, providing tools to augment the creative process.

Artisans working in traditional crafts such as batik design and weaving can leverage AI-powered applications to explore new design possibilities, experiment with patterns, and expand their creativity.

Hesmel said cultural officers are the trailblazers in charting a course towards a better Malaysian heritage, playing a critical role in championing positive applications of AI within cultural contexts.

“These custodians of culture are set to elevate traditional Malaysian art forms - be it through the intricate designs of batuk, the melodious tunes of traditional instruments, or the captivating performances of Wayang Kulit, or the magical narrative of Awang Batil and the beautifully choreographed movement of the Mak Yong dances - via digital enhancements.

“As we live, breathe, eat and sleep in a digital world, let’s ensure that our art and culture flourish right alongside, it, preserving our heritage while embracing the endless possibilities of the future,” said Hemsel.

As technology continue to be a driving force, artists and cultural custodians stand at the threshold of a new era where tradition and modernity comes together seamlessly, but it’s also wise to be cautious to the possible good and negative outcomes with AI’s transformative power.

Artificial Intelligence plays a pivotal role in shaping public perception. Social media algorithms and online platforms can either amplify or downplay controversies, significantly impacting the narrative surrounding events within arts and culture. A great example would be the Coldplay concert in Kuala Lumpur last year, which was nothing short of controversies leading up to the event.

The use of AI in shaping public perception adds a new dimension to these conversations, highlighting the need for a balanced approach that respects cultural expression while addressing legitimate concerns.

AI can also be instrumental in crafting and delivering targeted educational campaigns aimed at dispelling misconceptions and providing accurate information.

Take for example the idelogies surrounding the rainbow symbol and the LGBTQ pride movement, AI-powered platforms can uphold ethical standards by presenting information about rainbows in a manner that emphasizes their scientific and cultural significance rather than aligning them exclusively with any particular movement.

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