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Shaping AI

How did AI become what it is today?

The international project “Shaping AI” investigates the development of “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) as a socio-technical phenomenon: AI is not only an innovative technology that is being integrated into our societies, it also entails a distinctive approach to solving social problems through automation and potentially new ways of organising society and the public sphere.


Context and objectives

The conjunction of dynamic technological developments, fundamental controversies and massive investments indicates that 21st-century AI is currently in its formative stage. Whether we know it or not, many of us are now involved in negotiating what our future with AI will look like — what AI is, is not, and can become. SHAPING AI investigates this still amenable formation process by mapping, analysing and comparing regional and globalized trajectories and ecologies of AI innovation in four different countries — Canada, France, the UK, and Germany - and across three different domains: the media, policy space, and research communities. 


In each of these different and overlapping contexts, the project will use innovative social, digital and design methods to map controversies about AI. In this way, the project will bring to the surface underlying assumptions and wider forces that inform beliefs in the fundamental capacity of AI to solve society’s problems, cement geo-political power, and transform what it is to be human. We will also create a baseline of sociological data to contextualize the initial proliferation of 21st-century AI.

In addition, the project will instigate forms of public engagement by hosting participatory workshops that invite stakeholders and members of the public into the exploration of future AI pathways, and to envision different possible ways of integrating AI into social life, of living with and without AI in society. 

By these various means, the project meets the strong demand for developing expertise and visions to inform understanding of the unfolding developments of 21st-century AI in society and in shaping AI for the public benefit. 


SHAPING AI is a multinational collaboration by the Humboldt Institute of Internet and Society, Berlin, the medialab at Sciences Po, Paris, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methods at the University of Warwick, and the NENIC Lab at INRS Montreal, and the Algorithmic Media Observatory at Concordia University. The project has been funded under 2020 Open-Research-Area (ORA) scheme.