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DALL-E Mini’s Surreal Storyworlds: Co-creating Body Horror and Virtual Storyboards Using Text-to-Image A.I.

Monday, 7 November 2022, 10 – 11am

DALL-E Mini’s Surreal Storyworlds: Co-creating Body Horror and Virtual Storyboards Using Text-to-Image A.I.

A seminar by Dr Jennifer O’Meara (TCD) as part of the School of Creative Arts Research Forum.

Images created with the A.I. image generator DALL-E Mini first circulated widely on social media platforms in the summer of 2022. DALL-E Mini takes a user’s prompt sentence to create visual representations (text-to-image synthesis) and generates a 3x3 grid of nine images to represent the prompt, sourced from an unfiltered database of image results. Users often prompt imagery of things and events that may not really exist, resulting in misshapen bodies and objects and absurd visualisations. DALL-E’s ties to both storytelling and historical visual culture are immediately reflected in its name: the portmanteau combines the name of the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí with that of the titular robot in the animated sci-fi film WALL-E (2008). Building on this, Dr O'Meara's paper focuses on the creative use of the flawed DALL-E technology in social media, which she positions in relation to selected screen studies and cultural theories. 

The approach of this paper responds to Patricia de Vries’ call for less scholarship on the technical dimensions of A.I. and more scholarship that "relates algorithms to the broader artistic and cultural contexts in which they are embedded” (de Vries, Algorithmic Anxiety in Contemporary Art, 2018, p8). Paying attention to both the aesthetics of the generated images and their grid presentation, O'Meara theorises and historicises popular uses of DALL-E Mini in relation to surrealism, body horror, celebrity iconography, and film storyboards. Overall, the paper will argue that DALL-E Mini’s users have instinctively applied existing media knowledge and visual literacy in order to redirect the technology’s flaws into a playful form of visual storytelling.  

Jennifer O’Meara is Assistant Professor in Film Studies at Trinity College Dublin. She specialises in digital theory and practice and is a mentor on the HUMAN+ Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellowship programme, focused on human-centred approaches to technology. She has published on a diverse range of film and media topics in venues such as Cinema Journal, Feminist Media Studies, The Velvet Light Trap and NECSUS. Her second monograph Women’s Voices in Digital Media was published by University of Texas Press in 2022. Her current research project, funded by an Irish Research Council Starting Laureate Award (2022-2026), is titled “From Cinematic Realism to Extended Reality: Reformulating Screen Studies at the Precipice of Hyper-reality.”  

The School of Creative Arts Research Forum meets weekly on Mondays from 10am-11am in the Neill Lecture Theatre in Trinity Long Room Hub. The aim of the Forum is to provide a space for School researchers, both staff and postgraduate students, to share their ideas in an informal and supportive environment. It is also an opportunity for the School to hear about the research of colleagues both from within TCD and from outside the university who share our research interests. In line with the research agenda of the School, talks encompass traditional research and practice-based research.

Campus LocationTrinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute
Accessibility: Yes
Room: Neill Lecture Theatre
Research Theme: Creative Arts Practice
Event Category: Arts and Culture, Lectures and Seminars
Type of Event: One-time event
Audience: Researchers, Postgrad, Faculty & Staff, Public
Cost: Free
Contact Name: Dr Scotty McQueen

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