Strategische Gestaltung – SG2 Analytische Gestaltung

Demystify AI – Designing with/against the grain of Artificial Intelligence

Prof. Benedikt Groß


We find ourselves in an exciting Human and technological moment. In the last few years, it seems magic started to happen in Artificial Intelligence “AI”. After a long AI winter, machine learning “ML” methods and techniques started to work. Long standing and important practical use cases such as image recognition, speech recognition and natural language processing are having dramatically better results. For narrow use cases the errors rates have even often improved close to the ones of humans.

So one hand the possibilities for promising new products with AI are rapidly evolving, and on the other hand it is very clear that these technical innovations are going to have profound positive and negative impact in our everyday life. Hence it seems very appropriate that more and more designers are trying to get theirs hands on this technology. However a common critique is that, designers threat AI too techno-optimistic – like a black box full of magic which will solve any problem out of the box. But technology isn’t magic. There seems to be a gap between what is feasible, what might be feasible and what designers anticipate. Most likely this is because of a missing deeper understanding of the properties of this technology, think of “technology as a material”.

“… I would argue that the modern designer’s primary material is technology. And to effectively design and make digital things, you need to deeply understand technology’s affordances, characteristics, and limits i.e. the grain of the material.”
– Phil van Allen

In this course students are asked to tackle two things:

  1. Make their hands dirty and to get a better handle on the grain of AI via thinking through making a short project. Emphasis is on having something actually “working” and built with ML.
  2. Explore new roles, contexts and approaches for design in relation to the social, cultural and ethical implications of emerging AI technologies … through the stated demystified lense and their new informed understanding of the grain of AI.

With the goal to showcase various AI prototypes, AI explanations and visualizations, AI futures to ultimately inspire debate about their human consequences – both positive and negative. We will design for “the complex, troubled people we are, rather than the easily satisfied consumers and users we are supposed to be.”