It means that Dr Williams is exploring AI as a tool that can be grasped and manipulated by a writer. “AI can remove a fear of the blank page, introducing an initial building block that can then be modified and personalised,” he explains. “AI is not good at writing; it’s got no soul, no character, no personality – and humans can’t help but introduce their personality into their writing.
“Any story written by AI is just bland, so it’s not a robot to do your homework – more a tool like spellcheck or a calculator that can be useful but dangerous to rely on.”
Dr Williams believes the emergence of AI triggers a deeper question – of how we recognise and value art, and how this sits aside from how we make art. “With technology constantly introducing new tools for writing, composition and editing, it means a suitable tool is within easy reach for everyone – and such democracy means there is more possibility, not less. It’s a very powerful, very liberating environment to be working in.”
Dr Williams is learning and adapting as his creative writing students also embrace new possibilities. While they are partnering with electronic game developers to build narrative design, or working on screenplays with filmmakers, Dr Williams created a movie-length audio-visual work with poet Ian Gibbins to promote the launch of his novel Impossible Music.
As a musical composer, Dr Williams also collaborated with choreographer Lina Limosani and visual artist Thom Buchanan to create BÁRBAROS, an evocative stage production at Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre that combined contemporary dance, visual art and sound.
“I was working with music, yet there was still lots of narrative design in a huge collaborative process. It shows how you can tell a story without words,” says Dr Williams.
“Storytelling is intrinsic to all of these artforms – and at Flinders, these areas are taught side-by-side, so the students overlap. It’s a new way of creative thinking – and we are seeing a new generation who want to do all these things rather than focus on a single area. There is so much more possibility for our students to explore.”
Podcasts are also being used to communicate discussions on literature in fresh ways - including Word Docs, created by Dr Williams with his creative writing colleagues at Flinders, Dr Amy Matthews and Dr Alex Vickery-Howe. They examine writing craft and critical analysis that stretches far beyond the classroom or writers’ festivals.
“The Word Docs’ fundamental purpose is to discuss things about the writing craft that don’t fit inside the classroom or at a writers’ festival. It also explores the critical examination of writing – and this is a very dynamic area, because the explosion of critical commentary on social media has made critical assessment of art a very blurred area, opening up discussions to all sorts of people who have critical perspectives but never had a voice before.”
Dr Williams acknowledges it adds up to a complicated transition, “but it’s certainly diversifying the way we think about what we read and what we write,” he adds. “It’s also true that industry and employers understand the value of anyone who can communicate well and think creatively. Writers aren’t a dying breed. If anything, I see a new horizon presenting enormous possibility, in ways that haven’t existed before.”