Benita Martis

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The media production of war images may determine the users individual attitudes and behavior towards war. Influencers on TikTok thus have an active political impact that goes beyond social media. In addition, the platform plays a significant role in the Ukrainian war due to its high reach. Ukrainian influencers often show very personal and direct insights into the everyday life of this war, while some Russian influencers spread state propaganda. They are Putin’s digital fighters in the information war, while TikTok is a strategic tool for spreading propaganda of autocratic regimes like Russia.


The recycling of algorithmic interpretations through re-compositions in text and image, shows varying degrees of artificial „intelligence“. Large pre-trained AI textgenerators (LLM), such as GPT-3, are capable of generating propagandistic texts that at first glance can hardly be distinguished from human-written propaganda. Only on closer inspection do syntactic and semantic errors point to their artifocial origin. The training data of an AI are of great importance, as they often show problematic characteristics, such as derogatory references towards marginalized groups, as well as the reinforcement of stereotypes. Di erent social groupings and their behaviors thus produce differentiated learning data for the algorithms, leading to subtle but highly questionable text generation processes. Computer-generated images, on the other hand, contain obvious errors and distortions; their reception is very different from our usual perception, or photographic images. But we are at a turning point. It is already possible to generate deceptively real images and videos with little effort, which favors entirely new and faster ways of spreading propaganda (f.ex. Deepfakes) virally on social networks. AI-supported tools for image and text generation are becoming a powerful political instrument.


The images to be seen are stills from TikTok videos under the hashtags related to the war in Ukraine (such as #saveukraine #russia #stopwar) from female influencers. An algorithmic categorization by hashtag, VideoID and SoundID forms the basis for the artwork with the videos. Here, a commercial Image-recognition software from the company clarifai is labeling the Video-Stills afterwards.

Such Start Up Companies selling services with their AI-Apps that have „learned“ to describe images in detail. These algorithms are also applied in social networks, for example to filter violent content. However, TikTok videos often obscure what is being viewed due to their pop-cultural aesthetic transmissibility. Not only for human viewing, but also for the AI image recognition techniques just described. Bombed houses in the background of a Ukrainian war-influencer, for example, are not recognized as such.

Using a Russian version of the DALL-E image generator (ruDALL-E) and based on the previously collected algorithmic image descriptions, the „new“ artificial female Influencers are created. The model for the Russian AI is DALL-E from OpenAi and Microsoft, like already described above, one of the first AI’s that generates realistic images from short prompts. The differences between Western and Russian algorithms and datasets are deliberately exploited here. Through the associated hashtag of the original video, a direct link is established between social networks and the generated images.


In this context, the decisive question arises as to how far art may make use of images of war in order to have an impact on society. The alienation of war images through the pop-cultural aesthetics of influencers is contrasted with the equally alienating aesthetics of AI algorithms. Through the experience of difference with AI-generated images, the project appeals to our self-reflection in order to enable a critical consideration of our interaction with social networks in times of war.


The artistic exploration is updated and documented on this page. The collected materials will be analyzed under other aspects, such as soldiers or the city. Different media, methods and ways of presentation will be included.


To name a few sources, there are also links to places for fact-based investigative journalism.





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