Building ethical, smart future

Institute for Media Innovation launches with AI research

With an interdisciplinary team of researchers, media producers, designers and data scientists, the Institute for Media Innovation is launching from concept to production.

The institute focuses on research-driven knowledge to design and implement innovative uses of media.

“I see the institute as a space to help shape how we build a more ethical and smart future,” said S. Craig Watkins, who was announced as the institute’s founding director in September 2018. “As a boutique hub for research and design, we will research media innovation and then develop new applications through prototyping and experimentation.”

The initial set of research projects explore the rise of artificial intelligence. Through a deeper engagement understanding artificial intelligence and its pervasiveness, researchers will also look at the many ways technologies like smartphones and digital assistants are integrated into everyday lives.

“It is incumbent upon us to think about the widespread implications,” Watkins said. “There is a growing concern how AI systems allow companies to collect data like conversations, searches, requests, and mobility. Our research will help think more critically, creatively and ethically about the future of AI.”

Watkins has spent the better part of the past decade criss-crossing the United States and parts of Europe, working to understand and eventually close the digital divide. His recent books reflect several of the issues the institute will address.

In The Digital Edge, Watkins considers challenges to building a more diverse pipeline in the tech world, and in Don’t Knock the Hustle, he considers how young people are making a new economy that reimagines how we think about innovation and who we think of as innovators.

Watkins is a proponent of “future readiness,” which suggests that the ability to think creatively, practice lifelong learning, grapple with uncharted problems and use technology in novel ways will be some of the primary skills of tomorrow’s economy.

The institute’s research team, which currently consists of Master’s and Ph.D. students, will employ a future-ready mindset when critically researching and creatively exploring artificial intelligence and how to ethically use this technology.

Additionally, the institute is soliciting small grant proposals from Moody College faculty to support research, creative and clinical projects that use innovation for social good. Watkins said he anticipates awarding three grants throughout the summer and fall.

“We aim to build a robust presence in Moody College and beyond, and we welcome our faculty and graduate students, many of whom are already involved in a variety of research and creative work that directly engages the institute’s primary interests,” Watkins said.  

Natalie England
Marketing Communications