Arranging the Pieces… The experiences we capture in our pictures and stories

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By Tabitha Bozeman

I need to have a new headshot taken but have not had the time to get it done. So, the other day, I downloaded an app that creates AI-generated photos.

I uploaded some pictures, clicked the button and suddenly the “free” app was going to cost $10 a month. I deleted it, annoyed that it was advertising “free” services. But I considered paying because I was so curious and knew it would save so much time.

I haven’t used the picture apps yet, but there are other free AI apps I do use occasionally for research and writing. Mostly, I began using them in an effort to at least stay up-to-date with my students, but they can also be incredibly useful. I have used them as a jumping off point to craft writing assignments, or to triple check myself for formatting errors. I know how to craft assignments on my own and I know how to format my writing. But I have essays to read and grade, students to meet with and kids to raise. It is often a better use of my time to use tools at my disposal so that I can do the things that are more important, such as the people-centered things. Most of the time, when any of us cut corners, we accept that there may be drawbacks but we weigh the cost with the end result and decide if it is worth it.

Students, though, are sometimes tempted to use AI tools to complete writing assignments, and I get it. I can copy and paste a writing prompt into ChatGPT and it will compose a 500-word essay in about five seconds. However, I am usually able to identify AI-written text when it is submitted for a grade. These programs can create an essay easily and quickly, but they are usually fairly predictable and shallow. I have caught many of these attempts, and when I do it is an opportunity for more than just punishing a student with a failing grade. Instead, it is a chance to talk to students about what corners they may be cutting, and another chance for them to practice honing their writing skills.

AI can even compose poems and stories, as well as song lyrics. I like to remind my creative writing students, though, that part of improving as a writer is practicing the tools writers have at their disposal. That practice often comes in the form of copying the ways other writers have written. Once they are confident in using these tools the way another writer has, they can more effectively use the same tools in their own unique writings. Using AI is a useful tool if they have already mastered other tools through practice.

Using AI to write bypasses this practice. It is a short cut, but does the end result justify cutting the corners? Well, I’ve had to think about this a lot lately because AI could pose a real threat to my field. I don’t have one right answer, and I don’t think there is one. I think, like any tool, AI has positives, especially if it is used thoughtfully and skillfully. Teaching students to use these tools skillfully is important. But, before they can do so in any meaningful way, they first need to master some basics.

We have all heard the saying “I think, therefore I am.” Lately, I’ve seen this idea applied to imagining the future of AI, but it is also interesting to apply it to the future of our own minds and autonomy.

As I was playing around with the AI image app, I started thinking about how surreal it would be to see “myself” in places I’ve never even been, which then made me think about the value of pictures and AI in general. I was choosing pictures to post on Facebook the other day, thinking about each moment when they were taken and composing brief stories of the experiences.

AI pictures and even stories can be fun options, and definitely a time-saver for something like a headshot, but they definitely can’t take the place of the experiences we capture in the pictures we take and the stories we write.

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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