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Pamela Chen: How meme culture and algorithms are reshaping photography

A former senior photo editor for National Geographic and creative director at Instagram, and now HAI-JSK Fellow at Stanford, discusses the changing face of photography in the age of algorithmic personalization.

a Canon camera on an orange background

Artificial intelligence’s influence on photography is in its infancy. | Unsplash/Paul Gaudriault

With a degree in photography with a concentration in mathematics and boasting high-profile jobs at two of the most influential visual outlets in the last century, National Geographic and Instagram, Pamela Chen knows a bit about the state of modern photography and the algorithms that shape popular tastes.

Now, as the Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and John S. Knight Journalism (HAI-JSK) Fellow at Stanford, she studies how artificial intelligence is shaping the role of photography in society: particularly the rise of memes, which she refers to as “packets of culture.” Chen says mathematics is redefining photography as much as artistic vision, altering both consumer tastes and the creative eye of photographers who want to become — or remain — relevant in a rapidly changing world.

Chen joins Stanford Engineering’s The Future of Everything host Russ Altman to discuss why artificial intelligence’s influence on photography is only just in its infancy and why lovers of photography still have power to shape AI as much as it shapes us.