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Characters of the Future. Machine Learning, Data, and Personality

Author: Nicolle Lamerichs
[published in: IMAGE 29 Special Issue/Themenheft (Januar 2019)]

Fictional characters are changing from passive entities into active learners. New technologies are curating how characters speak, what they know, and what they can learn. Disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and big data are changing what characters are, how they behave, and what media and texts they belong to. The ownership and authorship of characters is shifting from the professional creative industries to fans themselves. In this study, I analyze new tendencies and trends of how characters are increasingly based on new technologies such as chatbots, intelligent personal assistants, and holograms. I close-read different characters, such as the personal assistant Azuma Hikari and the hologram Hatsune Miku. An important theme that emerges in the discourses and narratives surrounding these characters is the meaning of artificial life and death. I analyze this recurring topic in-depth and conclude by theorizing the possible future of characters. Overall, I will argue that characters should not be read as passive entities authored by one specific instance anymore. Increasingly, characters are crowdsourced, highly technological-based, and self-learning. The future of characters, I argue, is therefore strongly mediated and interactive. New technologies are going to make us see characters in continuously new lights as well. In media studies, characters might best be understood as highly networked, non-human agents.