Media, Technology and Ethics: The AI Imperative

Artificial Intelligence, commonly referred to as AI, is the theory and development of computers to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence. Although AI is gaining traction in the media world, there is still a lot to learn about this technology and its capabilities.

As part of the online Communications@Syracuse program, students visited the Syracuse campus September 29 through October 1 for an immersion focused on AI applications in areas of media, technology and ethics. Students learned from faculty experts, networked with industry leaders and created their own chatbots.

One of the highlights from the weekend was a panel with industry experts led by Newhouse Professor Steve Masiclat. Panelists provided students with insights about how they’re strategically implementing AI at their organizations and how students can leverage AI developments in their own careers. 

Putting AI to Work

AI Panelists included Layne Harris, VP and head of innovation technology at 360i; Jessica Smith, senior research analyst at Business Insider, BI Intelligence; Nick Cicero, CEO and founder at Delmondo; and Greg Hedges, VP of emerging experience at Rain. Students learned about these experts’ first-hand experiences with AI shaping the communications world and how their own Newhouse education equips them to be on the cutting edge of technology innovation in their field.

Greg Hedges shared that his company is building out teams of 30 to 40 people to help clients strategize and execute on AI projects. While a lot of clients are interested in applying breakthrough AI technologies, panelists cautioned that it is extremely important to monitor the technologies and think about positive and negative implications. Because machines are not yet fully capable of understanding and executing based on the nuances of an organization’s brands, communications professionals must strategically monitor and implement AI.

The Future of AI for Communications Professionals

After learning about the potential of AI, students were eager to hear what this new technology means for their careers. Jessica Smith started the conversation around the great shift that AI is undergoing from being text-oriented to visual- and voice-oriented. As with any new technology, however, AI—and the experts who utilize it—will experience glitches as the technology is further developed. Communications professionals will need to manage customers’ expectations and serve as ethical advocates for emerging technologies.

It’s important to note that while machines may be getting smarter, humans are still in control of design and implementation, speaker Nick Cicero shared with students. “Machines don’t build themselves,” he said. “You build the machines.”

Students can capitalize on career opportunities with AI in four key areas, Greg Hedges shared:

  1. Training: Understanding the capabilities of AI and training the technology to perform as needed.
  2. Monitoring/Optimizing: Watching to make sure the technology is operating as intended and optimizing its performance over time.
  3. Delivery: Determining how a message or advertisement will be delivered and running the platform to deliver the message or ad.
  4. Ethical implementation: Ensuring that these technologies take into account the diverse audiences that are engaging with them.

#CommsImmersion

Want to know more about the students’ immersion experience? Check out some of the live tweets from students and faculty throughout the weekend.


Reacting to the expert panel, Nhea Durousseau tweeted:

"Comms panel: Microsoft, twitter bot bigots, collaboration, and human input. Half of the AI question is philosophical. #commsimmersion"


During the student debates, Wasim Ahmad tweeted:

"That #journalism is about people is important to remember as industry embraces tech @SyracuseComm student @Mitra_Z argues at #commsimmersion"


Mitra Zolfaghari quoted keynote speaker Alex Salkever:

“'In about 20 to 30 years, smartphones will have more computational power than the human brain' -@AlexSalkever #CommsImmersion” 

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