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Keynote address: "Androids, Spirits and Chatbots: Historicizing AI Writing," delivered by featured guest speaker Annette Vee, associate professor of English, University of Pittsburgh

Generative AI platforms such as ChatGPT have suddenly thrust the automation of writing into the public spotlight. The machine learning techniques behind Large Language Models such as the GPT series may be new; however, for centuries, humans have attempted to automate writing using mechanical, spiritual, and logical means. The automation of writing parallels a longer history of automation, yet with a twist: each of these attempts to automate writing also implicated a kind of artificial human intelligence. Writing is uniquely human, and as such, it has served as a touchstone for scientific and literary imaginations focused on replicating human intelligence. This presentation puts current conversations about AI writing in historical context with 18th century androids, 19th century spiritualism, and 20th century computer scientists to probe both what writing meant in previous eras as well as dominant assumptions of what it meant to be human in these eras. Attendees of the talk will come away with an understanding of: current Large Language Models driving generative AI writing plus how they do and don’t replicate human intelligence; historical contexts for the attempts to automate writing; and open research questions and pedagogical challenges and opportunities surrounding writing in the age of generative AI.

The theme for Write@UGA 2024 will focus on the impact and application of generative AI (e.g., ChatGPT) on writing across the curriculum. The featured guest and keynote speaker is Dr. Annette Vee, associate professor of English and director of the Composition Program at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to a morning keynote, Vee will also lead a teaching-focused workshop in the afternoon. Her recent work on text-generating technologies (i.e., TextGenEd) and larger research agenda on the effects computational technologies have on writing and rhetoric make her an ideal scholar to welcome to campus to work with our community on developing appropriate, flexible responses to emerging AI technologies that support UGA’s motto: “to teach, to serve, and to inquire into the nature of things.”

Write@UGA 2024 is sponsored by the following units: Center for Teaching and Learning, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Jill and Marvin Willis Center for Writing, Office of Instruction, and Office of Research. 

Write@UGA is coordinated by Lindsey Harding and Elizabeth Davis.

Event Details

  • Alessandra Matias
  • Catherine Clutter
  • Vijay Murthy

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