Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. & Elliott, A. (2018). Automating the black art: Creative places for artificial intelligence in audio mastering. Geoforum, 96 77-86.


In this paper, we consider the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) in the creative economy of music production. One sector in particular, audio post-production, is experiencing rapid change due to AI and various other forms of automation. This spells major changes, now and in the future, for skills, employment and work. Many accounts on the role of machine automation in occupational instability-specifically, reductions in human employment-have focused on the manufacturing (assembly lines) and service (financial, legal and administration) sectors: so-called blue- and white-collar jobs. However, there are as yet only limited forays into the possible consequences of AI in the creative economy, in particular on 'no-collar jobs'. Creative occupations were previously understood to be immune from the disruptions of AI due to the high levels of intuition, affective knowledge, 'gut instinct', and other human 'assets' difficult to replicate by complex algorithms and intelligent machines. Drawing on empirical research on AI in audio post-production, this article contends that there are conflicting notions of the possible impacts of these new innovations on human expertise and digital skills. The article highlights change underway in this profession of audio mastering as workers in the creative industries collaborate and compete with AI-driven technological innovation.

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