The impact of FAKE


A paradigm shift in vernacular media content.

Till recently, machine learning tools for creative applications were only afforded by the entertainement industry. This situation is now changing as deep neural networks are secularizing knowledge(s) and skills: the online abundance of digitized media content, the increasing convenience of programming language frameworks and machine learning libraries, the secularisation of knowledge through e-learning and the plummeting prices in specialized hardware contribute in reaching a point where artificial intelligence gradually becomes accessible to everyone. As documented in recent instances of manipulated media by amateurs, these tools allow for an unprecedented degree of realness that weaponize user creativity but pronounce new challenges to an increasingly interconnected public sphere.

Attention is a scarce commodity market. The creative industries have often walked a thin line between their commitment to cause emotion, and the equivocal effects their works have in the general sensibility. As we are reminded by the alarmist voices of media pundits and the moral high ground of academia, every sensationalist outbreak of a new deepfake risks undermining our trust on the information commons. How can we ensure a critical distance that prevents the elevation of these experimentation fields to the status of unquestioned authority while embracing the novelty and empowerment of fakeness?


How technological disruptions shape the art industries?


Substantiate our research with a paper reflecting on the production process.

“The most common response to what is called the digital revolution, might be the impulse to not change, no matter how ‘different’ the world out there seems to be”, writes Marjorie Perloff in her study of modern, avant-garde poetry through the lenses and challenges of pop culture and advertisement. Away from the deeply technophobe celebration of the advent of formal medium possibilities, we focus how the technological disruptions in the arts reflect the massive shifts that occur in the reconfiguration of affects for a globally, interconnected precariat of workers. Our research focus specifically on the conceptual ramifications of automation in graphic narratives and examine how technology both allows for more sophisticated uses of machinic production and pushes the boundaries of the medium.

Graphic narratives are not only important in comics or in general domains of artistic expression. They are tools whose multimodal expressive communication has become our primary modality in sharing and shaping representation of our worlds. From data infographics and communication strategies to community building and graphic journalism there is a story to be told. Our skills and acquired sets of knowledges can find multiple applications in a graphic narrative-rich Internet environment. Applied.Memetic is interested instead in harnessing the machinic understanding of graphic narratives through recurrent patterns, probability distributions and outliers in comics language that have been lurking in our pre-attentive reader’s cognition and that we haven’t been able to articulate in words. 


Developing technical expertise for a broad range of online narratives.


Our challenge: produce the first graphic novel generated through a machinic, non-human understanding.

While speculations about the growing role of machines in artistic production have been a consistent trope in modern and contemporary art debates throughout the 20th century, comics from their early beginnings, have been symbiotically expanding with the development of printing, distribution, communication and media technologies. These industrial processes of completion based on generalized automation, standardization practices and an orchestrated division of labour are so embedded in the ways we understand and consume comics that have become an essential feature for the conceptualization of artistic practices in the medium. A typical production line of manga comics for example involves dozens of people handling specialized roles in a quasi-taylorist production belt, often in ways that have been criticized for resembling a sweat shop, while distribution has been increasingly involving massively digitized operations of logistics and global supply chains. Comics is an industrial form of artistic expression.

At the same time, the comics industry has been quite reticent in embracing the complex nature of technological developments in artificial intelligence. Synthetic and generative processes might soon reshape the ways we produce, consume, archive and distribute comics artefacts. A more wide adoption of artificial intelligence in different strata of the industry might reconfigure existing readership(s) market(s). It will ultimately force a radical realignement for the practitioners’ artistic ethos and contribute to the formation of new reader sensibilities. We acknowledgs therefore the matter-of-factness of the available technological tools; certainly not in terms of a reified glorification based on questions of progress or innovation. At best, as a reconfiguration of the industry’s entrenched roles of production. The project represents a considerable technical and artistic challenge as it explores a set of operations and program routines that don’t conventionally account for the production of graphic narratives.

​Within the “computational creativity” literature, various papers and academic researches have proposed different algorithms and model architectures in the exploration of the creative potential of a machine. In their attempt to replicate a certain view on the evolution in the history of arts, popular models in computationally creative systems usually agree in constraining the novelty of their outputs.​

Graphic narratives are particularly amenable to programmatic processes. From Manouach’s early book facsimile appropriations, to the Shapereader system of communication specifically designed for readers with visual impairment, and the latest experiments based on the orchestrated work of hundreds of comics artists around the globe, each book project can be easily described as a set of instructions, in a programmatic fashion that highly resembles the bottom-up algorithmic processes of deep neural nets in machine learning. Similar to the bottom-up algorithmic processes of deep learning, the programmatic fashion of these projects expresses the choice to locate the medium of comics in the widest affect aperture. ​


Highlight the urgency for a media savvy, internet-literate citizenship.


We provide specially designed workshops for raising awareness on synthetic media.

Our educational program centers around the manifold ways artists can leverage the increasingly reduced costs of media manipulation tools. During the workshops we trace a historical overview of media manipulation techniques and how at times, they have been deployed from artists to influence public opinion. We examine a variety of cases where art has battled for the attention economy: from the latest cases of fake sponsored content and instances of growth hacking to vernacular shallowfakes and the more sophisticated doctored media content that has been pushing the boundaries of citizen expression. Through a case-by-case study, we understand how to navigate the flattening out of discursive contexts online, and we learn to assess how anonymous, synthetic content can or cannot act as popular ultimate ‘proof’. We evaluate and develop different forensic skills and fact-checking techniques to determine provenance and authentication of content with the goal to regain trust in the information commons and promote an ethical creative use of synthetic media.