Circulating Emotions: UNESCO’s original initiative on Artificial Intelligence

By: Inna Merkoulova


Volume: 09
Issue: 02:Winter 2023
ISSN: 2459-2943
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2023.0021
Pages: 105 -121
Lic.: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Artificial intelligence
Graphic novel
Semiotic existence



We propose to analyze how emotions and stereotypes circulate, using the example of recent UNESCO publications in artificial intelligence (AI). Yuri Lotman outlined two types of restrictions imposed by culture on human behavior, regulated by shame or fear, respectively. This distinction coincides with the division of the collective into ‘we’ and ‘they’ groups. The circulation of emotions is a semiotic process, and in the discourse on AI, the primary emotion is fear. Today, our attitude to artificial intelligence is regulated by fear and is based on dividing the collective into ‘we’ (ours, people) and ‘they’ (others, AI). However, several international organizations are discussing issues related to the ethics of AI. They propose moving from a system of relations with AI based on fear (‘we’ – ‘he’) to regulation based on shame (creating a new ethical community around ‘we’). This community should be understood in the spirit of anthroposemiotic studies of recent years: human interaction, collectives, habitats, and imaginations. In 2022, UNESCO launched an original graphic project to block the circulation of AI-associated fears and stereotypes. The graphic novel Inside AI is presented in several language versions. The versions of the title can be interpreted as illustrating types of semiotic existence: virtual (in Spanish), actual (in French), and realized (in English). The task of blocking the circulation of fear and overcoming it by immersing yourself in the world of AI is carried out through the prism of gender discourse. Readers are invited to take a journey into the world of AI in the company of four characters, three women, and one man. Specific gender features and fears mark each of them’s discourse. Today, as the function of graphics as a marker of metalinguistic expression increases, the UNESCO graphic novel is intended to combat fears and stop the circulation of gender stereotypes simultaneously.


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