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Al moves toward a digital platform

Many governments and corporations around the globe have rapidly pursued the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the early 21st century, and Al, algorithms, digital platforms, and big data are key technological tools that they have had to focus on for this. Although they do not emphasize the media and cultural industries as some of the major industries, Al has gradually become a new digital technology that cultural creators and cultural industries companies adopt to enhance the quality of media and cultural content (see Kim, K.H. et al., 2018). For these actors, the common belief is that machine learning is more powerful than it actually is. As the magazine Forbes (2017) aptly observed,

Machine learning is good at things machine learning is good at and, of course, it’s bad at everything else. If you listen to some people though, you’d believe you could throw a neural net at any problem and get a solid solution.

Most of all, the increasing role of Al in the cultural industries has related to the growth of digital platforms as a new player of the cultural sector. Several digital platforms, such as social media platforms, OTT service platforms, and smartphones are rapidly becoming primary actors in the production, distribution, and consumption of media content and popular culture. In the realms of media and culture, digital platforms like Facebook and Netflix mainly function as the distribution tools of media and cultural content; however, these digital platforms equipped with Al, algorithms, and big data have produced media and cultural content themselves, while people enjoy popular culture produced and distributed on these platforms. Facebook and Netflix are no longer distribution channels, but as platforms produce their own cultural content and media information and actively mediate other cultural providers and consumers. Netflix is a good example of the increasing convergence of Al, digital platforms, and popular culture, and therefore, it is necessary to discuss the ways in which Al has deeply influenced cultural production.

What is interesting is that Al itself will in turn become a digital platform. As discussed, Al has transformed the media and cultural spheres. That is just the beginning. Stanford University’s Al Index 2019 annual report has found that the speed of Al is even outpacing Moore’s Law—how processor speeds double every 18 months to two years—meaning application developers can expect a doubling in application performance for the same hardware cost. The Stanford report released in December 2019 especially found that Al computational power is accelerating faster than traditional processor development. According to the report, prior to 2012, Al results closely tracked Moore’s Law, with compute power doubling every two years. Post 2012, however, compute power has been doubling every three to four months (Saran, 2019). The speed is important for the cultural sector as well. As Al becomes a normal standard and technology, the media and cultural landscape will be transformed deeply. In this regard, Tercek (2019) argues that “Al as platform” will happen eventually because of competition, which means that one way or another, it seems inevitable that Al as an on-demand service like Netflix will be widely available soon.

Usually, when we think about the future of media, we do not consider AL ... The folks in the media and advertising business are intensely preoccupied with streaming video platforms, including on-demand services like Netflix and (considerably less so) with live streaming systems like Twitch. In their defense, this myopic focus makes sense because streaming video has permanently altered consumer behavior, but at this point it is also kind of an obvious trend: there are more than 200 OTT streaming videos services available in the United States today, and thousands outside the US. What comes next after OTT? In my speech, I aimed to push past the obvious trends like streaming video to explore something that is still emerging and evolving. To me, right now, that is Al for media.

(Tercek, 2019)

In reality, we may need to wait longer to witness the growing role of Al as a digital platform itself in the cultural sector, including in both production and consumption, as it is a long way from buzzwords to reality. As discussed, the implementation of Al in cultural production is certain, and people are surely experiencing the increasing role of Al in media and culture, although the process is rather slow. This implies that the transformation of the cultural sector in tandem with Al is real, but gradual, as opposed to expectations.

The role of Al will furthermore grow to become one of the most significant components, even as a digital platform itself, in our cultural lives. This is why we have to consider Al not only as a new digital technology, but also as a platformitized entity, which means that we critically analyze Al as one of most profitable and dominant mediators in the global context. Al is the only digital technology to learn itself to control the entire value chain in the media and cultural industries. It is only a matter of time before Al is platformitized too beyond its role as a cutting-edge digital technology. As Shani (2015) points out in Wired, “While the discussion occasionally turns to potential doomsday scenarios, there is a consensus that when used for good, Al could radically change the course of human history. And that is especially true when it comes to big data.” In other words, “The very premise of Al technology is its ability to continually learn from the data it collects. The more data there is to collect and analyze through carefully crafted algorithms, the better the machine becomes at making predictions.”

Regardless of the increasing role of Al in the traditional media sectors, including broadcasting, film, and music, Al has closely connected to digital platforms in contemporary capitalism. In other words, Al can be identified

as an instrument of capital, with all this entails in terms of both the exploitation in and ejection from waged work of human labor, and the concentration of wealth and social power in the hands of the corporate owners of high technology

(Dyer-Witheford et al., 2019, 3)

Al has been

the product not just of a technological logic, but simultaneously of a social logic, the logic of producing surplus-value. Capitalism is the fusion of these technological and social logics and Al is the most recent manifestation of its chimerical merging of computation with commodification.

(Dyer-Witheford et al., 2019, 3)

Understanding Al in the cultural sector is not isolated from socio-cultural and economic conditions surrounding the growth of Al, which means that we have to analyze Al within the broader context of our society. We need to analyze Al and digital platforms, and therefore, the convergence of Al and digital platforms in popular culture comprehensively and critically, from technological perspectives to commercial spheres and to socio-cultural aspects.

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