Artificial intelligence (AI) is a burgeoning topic within contemporary Western culture, not only amongst authorities on science and technology, but also the nonspecialist, general public. Science fiction film and television has become one of the key ways that AI discourse is communicated to nonspecialists and, increasingly, researchers are giving consideration to the impact of these fictional narratives on our perceptions and understandings of developing, real-world AI. However, researchers are mostly focusing their studies on science fiction aimed at adult audiences, which seems odd given that young people are often framed within wider culture as ‘digital natives’ and as the torchbearers of the next wave of technological advancement. This paper, therefore, reports findings on how AI is communicated to young people through science fiction film and television specifically aimed at a school age demographic, using the CBBC series Eve (2015-2017) and Disney Pixar films WALL-E (2008) and Big Hero Six (2014) as case studies. These texts are indicative of a techno-ambivalent discourse for young people that attempts to navigate a precarious balance between embracing the capabilities of AI and disseminating an adult agenda that manifests as techno-anxiety, which could contribute to a disengaging confusion for this demographic. It is important to foster interdisciplinary understandings of the impact of AI-centred science fiction for young people, their intersections with communications around real-world AI, and how both these discourses can be optimised to contribute to the cultivation of young generations that are not only technologically literate but are also empowered by its increasing ubiquity.
Abby Kidd, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom