Sunday, June 26, 2022

Dall-E Mini’s embrace of the uncanny shows how the internet has changed humor

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This AI image generator allows users to combine dissonant elements, create strange new images, and hold up a mirror to the way we communicate online

They are created using an AI generator called “DALL E mini” which, as described on its website, is “an AI model that generates images from every input you give!”

For the past week, the internet has been invaded by strange, blurry images, the characters within recognizable – Bugs Bunny, Bono, Mario, and Luigi – but also slightly fake, like’s memes. You’ll have seen them on your social media timelines: a grid of nine images, each one looking like a Salvador Dalí painting depicting the strangest dream you’ve ever had.

Developed by Houston programmer Boris Dayma, the tool aims to make AI accessible to all and is easy to use – you just type the elements you want it to stitch together in a dialog box (my colleague chose “Meryl Streep” and “cat. ) – is one of the main reasons for its popularity. Even greater, however, is the fact that you can really put whatever you want in it and you’ll be served a kind of delirium in the sausage.

The results are often bizarre and occasionally quite profound (I typed in “Mr Blobby Existentialism,” for example, and one of the images that came up was Blobby in an office building – a harrowing image of boredom), the lack of finesse in many of the Images that only add to their odd appeal.

And of course, since the Internet is the Internet, while some have used the capabilities of DALL E mini to create, for example, well-known characters in the style of famous artists, other users have come up with the most dissonant possible combinations for the AI ​​to push together, including “Gandalf vape tricks“, “Kermit painted by Munch,” and “a masterful oil painting of Godzilla and Columbo getting married‘ much to the delight of her followers.

DALL·E mini allows users to overlay characters, stories and styles at the touch of a button, usually to create what appears to be a melted candle.

It may seem bizarre, but the compulsion for ever stranger combinations creates visual representations of what the internet has been doing with language for decades. The online world, particularly as it has evolved via Twitter, is obsessed with anything sinister or slightly “off”.

Any absurd linguistic combination that reads like a joke with a punch line, or a meme where the joke revels in sheer ridiculousness, can be subsumed into the common ironic language of the internet: think “30-50 wild boars,” the viral phrase that brought the online touchpaper back in 2019, when a Twitter user posited that the use of assault rifles against the many wild boars invading his yard might be justified? Or the online riot to a island of love The contestant named “Chuggs” was announced for last year’s show (not to mention the fact that the contestant was a hat entrepreneur whose business was called “Booby Buckets”).

Linguistic memes like this one — sometimes circulated via tweets or video recordings — are constantly being replicated by different users (TikTok only keeps reproducing them with its “Sounds” feature), and indeed, even the darkest corners of our culture can throw phrases that are widely shared are because the internet likes the way they sound.

Take the saying “Mega Pint of Wine,” which recently spread quickly online, both as written memes and audio, after it was revisited during livestreamed testimony in the recent court case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

The phrase quickly became a TikTok sound, both because it sounds funny in isolation and due to the fact that it doesn’t agree in court. It shows how the context on the internet is so often selective (the judicial part of the use of this term is relevant; the fact that this was a domestic violence case apparently wasn’t) and quote, the stranger the better , wins.

If a phrase fits the bizarre, rhythmic, constantly referential way we talk on social media, someone on the internet will adopt it. DALL·E mini, a visual embodiment of this embrace of linguistic chaos that literally encourages us to juxtapose unexpected elements, is the natural next step.

The images DALL·E mini creates are visual representations of the way the internet allows us to think and communicate today – superimposing time periods and contexts that all exist simultaneously – and the humor that results .

They often take a lifetime spent online to analyze them (I can’t tell you why the Grinch dressed as Boss Baby is funny for example, but I know he is), and show how the internet has forever changed the way so many of us communicate and laugh, for better or for worse.

Indeed, “existing on the internet” often means scrolling through social media and seeing a picture of a puppy next to a news story about the government next to an advertisement for a pair of slippers next to video footage of a famous musician.

Attention spans are decimated; Story and context are often all but irrelevant (or at least manipulated to reflect the speaker’s own truth). Is there a better way to encapsulate these circumstances than an AI where you type “Shrek as a Greek god” and get a result that looks like a surrealistic work of art? It’s often said that we live in a glitch simulation as current events feel and sound more and more unbelievable: DALL·E mini is the glitch illustrated for us.

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