Experiential AI research agenda to bring together scientists and artists

[2019] Researchers from Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities, including Informatics Vaishak Belle, Jane Hillston, Michael Rovatsos and Ewa Luger have proposed a new research agenda in which artists and scientists come together, called Experiential AI.

Their hypothesis is that art can mediate between computer code and human comprehension to overcome the limitations of explanations in and for AI systems. Artists can make the boundaries of systems visible and offer novel ways to make the reasoning of AI transparent and decipherable. Artistic practice can explore new configurations of humans and algorithms, mapping the terrain of inter-agencies between people and machines. This can help to understand how humans are conditioned by their participation in algorithmic processes.

The new programme will be hosted by the Edinburgh Futures Institute, and involve the Bayes Centre and the Robotarium. In August 2019 it will launch a lighthouse artist residency with Ars Electronica and Edinburgh International Festival. The residency will be split between Edinburgh Futures Institute, the Bayes Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Ars Electronica Futurelab in Linz, Austria.

The artist-in-residence programme is part of the European ARTficial Intelligence Lab, which is led and organised by Ars Electronica in collaboration with 13 partners across Europe, including Edinburgh.

Experiential AI will connect AI research to Edinburgh’s Festivals, and thereby to the civic and cultural life of the Edinburgh city region.

It is led by Dr Drew Hemment, Chancellor’s Fellow at the Edinburgh Futures Institute. The artist residency is part of a suite of public activity from the Edinburgh Futures Institute on the theme of Data-Driven Innovation.

“Artificial intelligence is reordering how we live, work and play in ways that are both unexpected and profound. Art can play an essential role in helping to question and understand the consequences of these technologies for our everyday lives.”

Drew Hemment

“AI algorithms are widely used for recruitment and trading stocks, but also in self-driving cars and domestic robots that act physically with people. How do we ensure that these interactions are effective and more importantly, what biases might such applications infer from interactions with us? The AI community is increasingly invested in concerns related to the explainability of black-box algorithms and fairness in decision making so that disadvantaged groups are not further disempowered. In that regard, experiential AI offers a fresh perspective where art can be used to demystify the inner workings of algorithms and explore ethical considerations with AI technology.”

Vaishak Belle


In May, Vaishak Belle, Dave Murray-Rust, Larissa Pschetz and Drew Hemment gave a talk on this new research agenda at the Art and Artificial Intelligence Open Conference hosted by the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe Germany.

Related links

Edinburgh Futures Institute

Bayes Centre

Art and AI artist residency and research programme announced

Art and Artificial Intelligence Open Conference at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe Germany