Theatre Journal Call for Papers – Special Issue for September 2021: AI

Christopher WennAll News, Call for papers, News from PSi

Correction: An earlier version of this post transposed the date of the Special Issue. The correct date is September 2021. We apologise for the error.

From the formal inception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) with individuals like computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, AI technologies have often been measured first in their ability to mimic human performance, such as translation, and then to surpass them. For example, in an AI subfield like natural language processing, the technology has developed for machines to mimic human capacity to learn language and then to exceed normative human abilities by increasing the scale of data analyzed and the speed of output. The developments of machine learning and deep neural networks are altering the fields of theater and performance studies and have (arguably) the potential to surrender active human control of the machine to the algorithm.

The implications of this shift have yet to be fully understood. For example, in an interview in Wired, France’s President Macron mentioned healthcare and mobility (autonomous driving and such) to be two of the primary fields in which AI might significantly enhance social wellness. At the same time, he has expressed concern over the risk involved, noting that the collection and instrumentalization of big data threatens national ideals; technology is thus intertwined with politics. Such potential and actual dangers have, of course, been noted along with the inherent biases in the algorithms that organize large data sets (Safiya Noble, Algorithms of Oppression). At the same time, numerous possibilities to utilize such technologies in unanticipated ways have emerged, as has occurred in the formulation of what Abigail de Kosnik calls in her eponymous book “rogue archives.”

This special issue will attend to AI in its many manifestations from bioinformatics to data mining to pattern recognition to robots. Contributors are welcome to submit essays comparing theatrical examples such as Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. to that of directors like Oriza Hirata and Julian Hetzel. Other approaches might consider how theatricality informs touchstones of AI discourse such as Masahiro Mori’s “Uncanny Valley” or the ways in which new media installations draw on AI to alter or shape forms of human (and potentially) non-human interaction.

This issue takes as an opening premise that AI is always embedded in socio-political structures. In this vein and especially in this moment, contributors are encouraged to consider how AI supports existing racial hierarchies and also how those same technologies might be used to destabilize or even explode them. How might existing technologies be used differently to understand the construction and impact of racial categorization on and for racialized communities? What are the possibilities for understanding human categorization available through what has been called mediascapes and technoscapes (that is, how does race filter through both representation and the material means—in this case, the hardware and software—of social reproduction)? How do we describe the impact of digital technologies on the various publics addressed by and, in the case of on-line communities, constructed through technological platforms?

This special issue will be edited by Theatre Journal coeditor Sean Metzger. We will consider both full length essays for the print edition (6,000-9,000 words) as well as proposals for short provocations, video and/or photo essays, and other creative, multimedia material for our on-line platform (500-2,000 words). For information about submission, visit: https://jhuptheatre.org/theatre-journal/author-guidelines Submissions for the print journal (6,000-9,000 words) and for the online platform (500-2,000 words) should reach us no later than 1 December 2020.

Submit via ScholarOne:

https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/theatrejournal

Feel free to contact the editors with questions or inquiries: Sean Metzger, Coeditor at smetzger@tft.ucla.edu Margherita Laera, Online Editor at m.laera@kent.ac.uk