Stephanie Frampton’s ARTificial Intelligence

2018 Fay Chandler Creativity Grant

Examining emerging ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence

About the Project

ARTificial Intelligence, a collaboration between MIT Libraries and the Cambridge Public Library, is a multifaceted ongoing program that fosters public dialogue about the emerging ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence (AI) through art and design. Led by MIT Associate Professor of Literature Stephanie Frampton, ARTificial Intelligence radically draws on both the university and public spheres as sites of critical engagement and embodies the spirit of public-facing scholarship.

In November 2018, ARTificial Intelligence and the Cambridge Public Library presented an installation of MIT PhD candidate Jonny Sun’s new interactive media piece, The Laughing Room, with a companion installation, The Control Room, hosted in parallel at the MIT Hayden Library.

The Laughing Room is an artificially intelligent room and interactive art installation that plays a laugh track whenever the participants say something that the room’s algorithm deems to be funny. The installation looks like a TV sitcom set, but the room is equipped with a system of microphones and speakers connected to a machine learning algorithm created using a large dataset of audio transcripts of stand up comedians. The algorithm determines the vocal inflections and patterns that precede laughter and then reacts to the voices of the participants from the general public who “perform” to the room.

The Control Room installation displays what is happening in The Laughing Room at the Cambridge Public Library on eight large screens each displaying live-streams from a different platform: Periscope/Twitter, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, Twitch Live, a direct high quality video and audio stream, an audio waveform of the sound in the room, a text output of all speech as interpreted by a speech-to-text algorithm, and reruns of previous video recordings.

The Laughing Room addresses the increasingly social and cultural roles of technology, and users’ agency within and dependence on these emerging social systems. In consort with The Laughing Room, ARTificial Intelligence will offer a series of workshops, talks, curated library displays and off-campus events about AI and society and the history of AI at MIT, using art making and curation as forms of knowledge production and creative research.


Past Events

ARTificial Intelligence: The Laughing Room
November 16-18, 2018
Cambridge Public Library, Main Branch / 449 Broadway, Cambridge, MA
MIT Hayden Library / 160 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA

Opening times:

11/16 Fri 2:00pm–5:00pm
11/17 Sat 9:00am–5:00pm
11/18 Sun 1:00pm–3:00pm

Special events:

Opening Reception at the Cambridge Public Library
November 16 / 4:00pm–5:00pm

Artists’ “Talk Back” with Jonny Sun and friends at the MIT Hayden Library
November 17 / 3:00pm–4:00pm

Complimentary shuttle buses between the Laughing Room and the Control Room
November 17 / 12:00pm–3:00pm

Is AI Laughing at Us?
February 4, 2019 / 6:30pm
A panel discussion with Jessica Fjeld, lecturer and assistant director at the Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, and Nikhil Dharmaraj of Harvard’s MetaLab.
Part of a new lecture series: Horizons: Exploring Breakthroughs in Science and Technology and their Impact on Society.
Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, Cambridge

Related Events

MIT Sloan + metaLAB happy hour 
Friday, September 20, 2019 / 6:30 pm
The Thirsty Scholar
Happy hour to discuss AI + Art and other projects, all are welcome
Contact: Mike Maizels
NMIA Fall Gathering
Monday, December 16, 2019 / 4-6 pm
Grafton Street Pub, 1230 Mass Ave
NMIA (New Media Interdepartmental Agency) is a group of artists and new media scholars from Harvard, MIT, and beyond, who gather quarterly to discuss projects, ideas, and opportunities, and build community in the new media arts. All are welcome.
Contact: Sarah Newman
The Myth of Agency

The Myth of Agency is an interactive installation that explores human and non-human agency, whether and how we make choices, and what implications this has in an increasingly complex technological world. Installation elements include sound, video, photography, participant interaction, moving objects, and water.

The work calls into question some basic assumptions about human agency. Machines, for example, are causal, mechanistic, bound by their programming. Yet we see ourselves as different. What forces guide our actions? As our machines become more intelligent and we ourselves become more networked, what does it mean to have agency? Is it merely a useful myth, or is there something particular – even if inscrutable – about what it means to be human?

Mozfest, London, October 24-26, 2019
CIRN Conference, Prato, Italy, November 6-8, 2019



Stephanie Frampton, Associate Professor of Literature at MIT, is a classicist, comparatist and historian of media in antiquity. Her work explores the intersections of material and literary culture in the ancient Mediterranean and the classical tradition, focusing on the histories of books, reading, writing and scholarly practice. She has published on a wide range of topics in this area, from graffiti in the city of Herculaneum to the history of studium from antiquity to the Renaissance and on Roman authors including Cicero and Ovid.

Frampton joined the MIT faculty in fall 2012, having taught previously in the Classics at the College of the Holy Cross and at Harvard University. She has received numerous awards, including fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, the Andrew Mellon Foundation and the Rare Books School of the University of Virginia, the Loeb Classical Library Foundation and the University of Cincinnati. She is currently the president of the Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School, University of Virginia.

More about Stephanie Frampton


Jonny Sun is the author and illustrator of everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too (Harper Perennial, 2017) and the illustrator of Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Random House, 2018). Named one of Time’s 25 Most Influential People on the Internet of 2017, Sun is currently a doctoral candidate at MIT, an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, and a creative researcher at the Harvard metaLAB, where he studies social media, virtual place, and online identity. As a playwright, his work has been performed at the Yale School of Drama, Factory Theater in Toronto, and Hart House Theater. As an artist and illustrator, his work has been exhibited at MIT, the Yale School of Architecture, New Haven ArtSpace, and the University of Toronto. He previously studied as an architect (M.Arch., Yale) and engineer (B.A.Sc., University of Toronto). He is the creator of @tinycarebot and the co-creator of the MIT Humor Series. His comedic work has appeared on NPR and in Time, BuzzFeed, GQ, and McSweeney’s, and he has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine.

More about Jonny Sun



Hannah Davis

Christopher Sun

MIT Libraries

Cambridge Public Library

MIT Literature Section

Harvard metaLAB

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society


Additional Support

The MIT de Florez Fund for Humor

The Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT)