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The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Courtesy of Marshall University
The Instagram post which depicted “If Marshall was a Pixar movie” through artificial intelligence garnered criticism.

A social media post last week sparked conversation between artists, Marshall University and the community after many comments reflected a distaste for the images used.

Marshall posted a video reel on their Instagram account entitled “If Marshall was a Pixar movie” on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The post, which used images created by artificial intelligence, received mixed reviews in the comment section.

Many of the comments on the reel questioned the intent behind the post, with students, alumni and members of the community asking why students from the School of Art and Design were not involved to create the images rather than a computer.

Willow Hess, an alumna from the School of Art and Design, said seeing the post was disappointing.

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“They have artists here; they have a whole building down in Pullman,” she said. “It was a little disappointing to see that they used AI instead of contacting regular artists.”

Hess also said taking the human aspect out of art strips it of its authenticity. She said most AI images are stolen art pieces.

As an artist, Hess said her fear for the future of art and AI coexisting grows as it becomes more relevant in society.

“Art imitates life,” she said. “So, it’d be very devastating to think that we would just take a very, very human aspect of life and just take it out of everything.”

Studio art student Lauren Wills agreed with Hess, explaining the relationship between AI and art. She also said AI images can be spotted – in comparison to human art – from a mile away.

“I think you can always tell when it’s AI because it’s sort of got that smooth, glazed feel. It looks super weird,” she said. “Most of the time the hands would have like six fingers or look super strange and just be a modeled mess.”

The post, in Wills’ opinion, came off as a condescending message to student artists.

“I thought it was kind of funny that we were all sort of banding together,” Wills said. “It sort of gives this message where it’s like the stuff that you guys make isn’t really important.”

The community backlash points to a bigger conversation of appropriate use of AI on college campuses, particularly in the world of art. This important conversation is one that is being discussed across the country, said Mark Zanter, the school’s interim director.

“Just about every day you hear news stories about AI and what AI can do and the positives and negatives of AI,” Zanter said. “AI is scary because it does some things very well.”

As for the social media post, Zanter believes that it gives an opportunity for discussion.

“What I would hope is that there could be a conversation about this,” he said. “When something’s posted on social media, you don’t always know that it will go viral or that it’ll elicit strong positive or strong negative comments.”

“We are, in a lot of ways, victims of what social media is giving to us,” Zanter said.

Marshall’s social media team resides in the office of marketing and communications. Dave Traube, chief marketing officer, said the post had no malicious intent and was simply a new idea from the team.

“As with most social media posts, it’s really just a quick piece of fun content,” he said. “That’s really what that was.”

The audience’s response was not expected either.

“We didn’t expect it, but, at the same time, we welcome all kinds of comments and, what I call, constructive criticism,” Traube said.

Traube also said the office currently has student graphic designers working as interns. They are active in photography, poster design and other graphics for the university. The job of creating graphics for the post, Traube said, is in reach of those interns and other art students at Marshall.

“Are they capable of doing things like that? Of course they are,” he said. “And, to be honest with you, the final result would come out better.”

“It’s just, you know, trying something different,” Traube said.

He also believes the correct approach to utilizing AI is not avoiding it altogether.

“The creative human element is essential to making art that really can touch the heart,” Traube said. “AI does not replace people and shouldn’t, but it can replace tasks.”

With AI’s growing popularity in today’s culture, the university has implemented AI policies in its academics, giving professors the option in determining how students may use it in their classes.

“The emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI) presents several opportunities and challenges to higher education, but its immediate impact on classroom pedagogy cannot be ignored,” Marshall’s website reads. “Because generative AI can be used in so many ways in academic work, instructors are encouraged to be explicit about how and when it may be used on assignments in their courses.”

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