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Kate McCallum, Kate Monson, Majed Al-Jefri

"FanFutures" is a project working with artificial (AI) automatic text generation in an exploration of fan fiction and speculation about possible futures. It is a collaboration between an artist, a computer scientist, and a social scientist — and, in an extended sense, also with the fan fiction community and an AI algorithm.

Using a data-set of short sci-fi-esque stories written by anonymous members of the fan fiction community, we taught a natural language processing program to produce its own, entirely new short sci-fi-esque stories. The program takes imagined futures written by amateur writers, rather than institutionally-sanctioned voices, and dreams algorithmically through those voices to produce its own re-imaginings of possible futures.

We then turned these stories into films, films that depict a computer’s dreams of the future drawn from a mass of unknown voices, using imagery selected by another algorithm. The outputs are feverish and confused, but, as with human dreams, we have embraced their incoherence, and allowed imagery and atmosphere to come to the fore.

The project is inspired by our collective interest in understanding how humans make meaning with and through others — and how others make meaning with and through us. In a moment when our rapidly changing world, with its mass communication, new technologies and changing environment, seems almost intractable, we take a creative and playful approach to representing this complex intra-acting assemblage of human and more-than-human elements, and the possibilities in our world through sensory experience.