The 18 chapbooks presented here were developed in Spring 2023 by first-year undergraduates from the CMU School of Art in the Foundations: Digital Media course by Professor Golan Levin. One of the units in this course is concerned with the artistic use of “AI” tools for generating images and text. In order to prompt students to experiment with these tools and develop an understanding of the “grain” of this medium, students were asked to use AI tools including ChatGPT and Midjourney to generate illustrated chapbooks. These artist books were then physically produced through Lulu.com, an online print-on-demand service.
The purpose of this project is for arts students to learn how to guide AI systems to produce a compelling cultural object—and for them to navigate digital systems to realize this object through a real-world publication process. In order to generate their books, students had to learn how to guide AI tools like ChatGPT (for text) and Midjourney (for images), an indirect creative process that is very different from their usual way of working. Additionally, students learned how to use Adobe Indesign to lay out their books, and how to use a digital print-on-demand service, a publication method of great practical value.
The use of generative AI tools in arts pedagogy is new, poorly understood, and controversial. This project engages arts students with experimental tools that are only a few months old, and whose very existence is fraught with new forms of potential infringement and abuse. Our hope is that this exercise will not only be instructive in the aesthetics and mechanics of using these new technologies, but in their ethics as well.
This project was made possible with support from the Frank-Ratchye Further Fund microgrant #2023-023. See more images of the books and their production here.