#WMDigitalDC (DCSI-NM) 3: Hey Alexa, Don’t Take Over the World

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

All jokes and Simpsons quotes aside, one of the main discussion points in the second week of DCNMSI was the future of artificial intelligence (AI). From our site visit to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), where we learned AI is already used in many video games, to Discovery, where an emerging technology expert frightened us all with his description of machine learning, the concept of AI followed our class everywhere. All of us considered tinfoil hat theories about AI self-awareness at least once.

Thankfully, the perils of artificial intelligence was not our only topic of discussion, nor did we conclude that a robot takeover is in the imminent future. In fact, week 2 of classes was as wonderful, inspiring, and exhausting as the week before. And our discussions covered much more than Alexa’s conquest of humanity.

Monday began with class, followed by a visit to the Pulitzer Center with alum Kayla Sharpe ’17. Tuesday included two site visits: POLITICO and the Entertainment Software Association. At the latter, we talked video game politics with one of the association’s lobbyists and then explored virtual reality through ESA’s tech. As a self-proclaimed Fruit Ninja champ, I was delighted to play VR Fruit Ninja with the HTC Vive. I was also excited to virtually explore the International Space Station with Oculus Go, but I couldn’t quite get the hang of the user mechanics and only succeeded in throwing cushions around in zero gravity.

On Wednesday we visited PBS. My favorite presentation was by PBS Digital Studios, the network partnered with John and Hank Green’s Crash Course. As a longtime fan of the series, I was excited to meet the PBSDS team and learn about their other channel partners. We also talked to the PBS Kids team, and aired our grievances about the too-short run of Liberty’s Kids (gone, but not forgotten). While at PBS, I realized I might have a future in educational entertainment – but we’ll see.

On Thursday, we visited Discovery, Inc. Aside from the anxiety-inducing lesson on machine learning, we met the leaders of Discovery’s in-house advertising team. Afterwards, we returned to the D.C. Center for a Q&A panel with recent grads followed by an alumni mixer with special guest President-elect Dr. Katherine Rowe.

I’d like to say I was chill about chatting with Dr. Rowe, but I definitely wasn’t. With an impressive résumé as a scholar, leader, and entrepreneur, Dr. Rowe is a case study in female academic excellence.

Then Friday came, and the end of the week was bittersweet. Our final class discussion included a showing of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” (we deemed it unacceptable that Professor Barnard hadn’t seen the video) followed by reflections on our new media goals that we set during week 1. After lunch with the other institutes and an Internships 101 presentation, DCSI classes came to a close.

Except it didn’t, because the News & Media Institute can’t stand to be apart so we had a cookout on the roof of our apartment building Friday evening.

Though I hesitate to speak in superlatives, I’m fairly certain this class was the best experience of my freshman year. The past two weeks have been full of great people, fascinating site visits, and engaging (albeit paranoid) discussions. I’ll miss running around the city with my classmates 8+ hours a day, but I’m looking forward to starting my internship next week. Plus, I know I’ve made friends for life – and our group message has plenty more memes and crazy theories to share. I’ll keep you updated.


The CEO of ESA has an Xbox controller table, because of course.

Professor Barnard tries Oculus Go while Caleb looks on. I can’t decide what’s more fun: wearing a VR headset, or making fun of someone wearing a VR headset because they can’t see you.

The News & Media Summer Institute at PBS.

Categories: Academics, Student Blogs, Study Away, Technology, W&M in Washington Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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