[ISEA2023] Paper: Kate Geck — Mycorrhizal Materialities: positioning the entanglement of human and machine intelligence


Short Paper. Theme: AI – Generative Sub Theme: Symbiotic Imaginaries

Machine intelligence is increasingly being used in the world with sometimes dramatic effects on human and other-than-human lives through its decision making capacity. Much artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is built on metaphors that centre extraction, competition and control. These also position AI itself as a resource to be extracted and controlled, paving a troubling path for speculative futures where AI may gain emergent or ambiguous levels of sentience or experience. These metaphors are part of a historical trend where humans place themselves above the other-than-human world, and this has formed the basis of an extractive and one sided relationship with that world. In light of this, what new metaphors might we employ to platform the relationships between human and machine intelligences? Thinking through mycorrhizae could be a productive way to foreground the entangled, generative nature of exchange between human and machine intelligences. This paper will briefly explore metaphor in human-computer interaction (HCI) and AI, before making an offering to think about these things through the material of the mycorrhiza, a symbiotic site of exchange between plants and fungi. It will then briefly detail a creative project that has emerged from this mycorrhizal thinking to produce machine imagined textiles and embroideries. It then concludes with a call to embed relational thinking into future practices between human and machine intelligence in order to create more equitable and even mutualistic outcomes.

  • Kate Geck is an artist born on unceded Jagera land and currently living on unceded Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung land in Melbourne/Narrm in Australia. Her practice tends to the connections between humans and technology, exploring ways to materialise the seemingly immaterial nature of the digital. She is interested in network culture: working with code, installation and textiles to create interactive surfaces exploring thresholds between the physical and the digital. These surfaces are overloaded, saturated and glitchy, using network iconography and digital composition tropes. Invoking the language of the Internet, this aesthetic critiques a hyper mediated age, creating sites of respite and resistance that think through alternative agendas for networked technologies. She has exhibited in Australia and abroad including 2020 and 2021 major commissions from the University of Queensland Art Museum, with funding and commissions from a range of organisations. Her research is focused on practice-led interventions with digital materialities, in particular the emerging relations between human and machine intelligence and the need to explore non-extractive practices with these technologies. This includes the current research projects Polyphonic Motions and Melodic Motions co-designing an online tool with artists who have intellectual disability: using machine learning to support healthy motion, social inclusion and creative practice. She is a lecturer in Interior Design at RMIT University where she also co-directs the Wearable and Sensing Network, and is a member of the HASH Network and The Care-full Design Lab.