by Eitan Y. Wilf
University of Chicago Press, 2023
eISBN: 978-0-226-82832-9 | Paper: 978-0-226-82833-6 | Cloth: 978-0-226-82831-2
Library of Congress Classification BF411.W55 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 153.35

Explores how creative digital technologies and artificial intelligence are embedded in culture and society.
In The Inspiration Machine, Eitan Y. Wilf explores the transformative potentials that digital technology opens up for creative practice through three ethnographic cases, two with jazz musicians and one with a group of poets. At times dissatisfied with the limitations of human creativity, these artists do not turn to computerized algorithms merely to execute their preconceived ideas. Rather, they approach them as creative partners, delegating to them different degrees of agentive control and artistic decision-making in the hopes of finding inspiration in their output and thereby expanding their own creative horizons.
The algorithms these artists develop and use, however, remain rooted in and haunted by the specific social predicaments and human shortfalls that they were intended to overcome. Experiments in the digital thus hold an important lesson: although Wilf’s interlocutors returned from their adventures with computational creativity with modified, novel, and enriched capacities and predilections, they also gained a renewed appreciation for, and at times a desire to re-inhabit, non-digital creativity. In examining the potentials and pitfalls of seemingly autonomous digital technologies in the realm of art, Wilf shows that computational solutions to the real or imagined insufficiencies of human practice are best developed in relation to, rather than away from, the social and cultural contexts that gave rise to those insufficiencies, in the first place.