In October 2018, two new research projects – Giving Voice to Digital Democracies: The Social Impact of Artificially Intelligent Communications Technology and Expertise Under Pressure – joined the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change, Cambridge.
Q. Dr Ullmann, which aspect of Giving Voice to Digital Democracies do you find most exciting?
What excites me most about the project is that it sets out to look at the role and function of language-based artificially intelligent agents from a perspective that all too often remains unaddressed, i.e. the ethical and moral concerns tied to these systems. We live in a time in which we become witness to the very first generation of young people growing up in a culture where information technology and social media are omnipresent and likely to be taken as naturally given. They become trusted companions. Against this backdrop, it is all the more important to think about potential moral demands and the advancement of an ethical framework for developers, policy-makers and users.
Q. How does your own area of interest relate to the project’s primary research questions?
My background is in empirical linguistics and my greatest interest and motivation lie in studying the different functions of language in socio-political contexts. The ways in which this project looks at the role of language in new media and communications technologies as well as its potential consequent effects on social imbalances and conflicts offer a significant opportunity for finding answers to some of society’s most pressing issues and questions in regard to the handling of artificially intelligent systems.
Q. What are your hopes for the Centre for the Humanities and Social Change?
Given the wide range of researchers and institutions involved and working together, my hopes are that the Centre will, on the one hand, further the interdisciplinary exchange between the humanities and technical disciplines and, on the other hand, enable the development of new theories and innovations that have the potential of actually contributing to positive changes in society, culture and politics.
Meet the Giving Voice to Digital Democracies Team:
• Professor Ian Roberts, Principal Investigator
• Professor Bill Byrne, Co-Investigator
• Professor Ann Copestake, Co-Investigator
• Dr Marcus Tomalin, Senior Research Associate
• Dr Stefanie Ullmann, Postdoctoral Research Associate
• Dr Shauna Concannon, Postdoctoral Research Associate