In 2017, diversity is a topic that is very much at the forefront of our minds. You only need to look at recent issues in Charlottesville in the United States to realise that the world could do with having one big conversation about race, gender, sexuality and how we can be more accepting towards each other.
Fortunately, social media platforms act as enablers for people to voice their frustrations. While there can be an argument that this isn’t inherently positive, especially with the amount of hate often spewed on the platforms, you can also look at the role social media has played in making sure these issues aren’t quietly swept under a rug.
The mere mortals, the normal people of the world, carry more influence than ever, whether it’s getting news out to the mainstream media or having an impact on major brands withdrawing campaigns after a social media backlash.
Such power shouldn’t be underestimated, and the same goes for the advertising industry, which is responsible for the content we see on the Internet, TV, radio and just about any other medium available.
Social Media Week
Social Media Week is a worldwide conference, which took place in London the week commencing September 11th, and shares ideas, innovations and insights into how social media and technology are changing landscapes, not just in business, but across the world.
It’s no surprise to see advertising agencies entrenched in SMW, and they often have much to say about how we will consume media, as well as the topics we might encounter. All ears were at the ready during SMW London 2017 – and one of the most discussed subjects centred around artificial intelligence (AI).
AI wasn’t the only word on people’s lips at SMW, though. With social media and advertising both having such influential roles within society, it was only right that the subject of diversity was on the agenda.
With AI and diversity acting as two of the key drivers behind Lobster, we decided that it was only right to combine both subjects. When you want to be central to the sea change, you need to take action – and that’s what we did with our SMW London event, the Human-Centric Algorithms: How Content Can Champion Diversity.
I get by with a little help from my friends
Of course, strength has always been in numbers, so we enlisted the help of three other minds in the creative industries, along with our very own CEO, Olga Egorsheva. They were tasked with talking to fellow creatives about the responsibilities we have to change the mindset around diversity and how AI can help to make that change.
First up was Jamie Williams, who is a partner at Isobel. Jamie has consistently spoken about the need to eliminate negative stereotypes, and his talk focused on gender equality and how it’s represented or, at times, misrepresented within the advertising industry.
Next up was Olga, who talked about AI’s ability to look through prejudice, something that is much harder for humans to do. She also reviewed how AI’s creative juices flow, comparing two versions of an ad made by McCann in Japan, one by AI and one by a human.
Creative Technologist at Y&R (Young & Rubicam), Gracie Page, was the third speaker at the Human-Centric Algorithms. Gracie’s topics included the invisible differences between people – those that aren’t marked by distinct traits. She also covered how avoiding ‘algorithmic bias’ in AI can lead to better representation of people.
Lydia Gregory, Head of Growth at Jukedeck, was on hand to round things off by talking about the human aspect behind AI and making sure that it creates unbiased data sets which will contribute to more diversity in content.
See the four speakers’ thought-provoking talks in their entirety.
Starting the conversation for a more diverse future
After the talk, there was a Q&A session with the audience, as well as networking between speakers and fellow creatives. While the diversity issues seen on a day-to-day basis within the media won’t change overnight, it’s good to see people in influential positions helping to make that step change.
The more conversations that we have – even if some of those discussions can prove to be uncomfortable because of the nature of the subject – the more open we will be and willing to learn from each other.
AI also has its role to play – it doesn’t see prejudice, which means that it can provide us with data to make decisions that don’t involve bias towards a gender, skin tone or similar traits. However, the people feeding the info to the machine needs to have the right intentions.
The process starts with a human, but those same humans can be lead in the right direction by a machine. If done properly, the results could create a seismic shift in the way diversity is perceived in the media.
Photo credit: All images provided by our partner Splento.