AI Technology, Holocaust Survivors, and Human Interactions at Holocaust Museums

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Cayo Gamber

Abstract: In this presentation, I will focus primarily on three constituencies: the individuals who developed the strategies for using AI technologies to tell survivors' personal stories; the survivors who were willing to participate in the Dimensions in Testimony (DiT) project to use volumetric capture in order to record the narrative of their (and their extended family's) experience of the Shoah, and the audience members who visit with the interactive DiT survivor recordings.Currently in use at over a dozen museums worldwide, pre-recorded interviews with individual Holocaust survivors incorporate specialized display technology and natural language processing in order to generate interactive conversations between survivors and visitors. The video recordings are prepared to answer well over 1,000 possible questions visitors might ask of them. In addition, a limited number of these AI recordings also are available to visitors to the Dimensions in Testimony (DiT) website.Members of the public who “visit with” individual survivor AIs are able to interact with eyewitnesses to history to learn from those who actually were there. Given that, these conversations are directed by the visitors to specific Holocaust museums and/or the DiT website themselves, visitors participate in a highly-personalized, inquiry-based educational interaction.For the past five years, I have studied both the responses of survivors who participated in this effort and I have engaged in observational study of individuals interacting with the DiT recordings both in a museum setting (asking questions of Renée Firestone at the Holocaust Museum Los Angeles [HMLA]) and students interacting with the DiT recordings available through the USC Shoah Foundation website (in particular, how students interact with the interactive DiT recording of Pinchas Gutter).In order to evaluate how this particular technology has been “accepted,” I will address the following points of inquiry:1.How might engaging in interactions that feel like self-directed interviews encourage greater empathy and/or compassion on the part of interlocutors? Or, conversely, is it possible that “users” will try to “game” the recordings by asking questions the recording cannot answer?2.What were the ground rules for capturing the testimony of the survivors?3.How do survivors themselves feel about participating in this innovative technology/project? 4.What do we learn about ourselves as a result of engaging in these interactions with the DiT recordings?5.How might these interactions redefine Holocaust education?

Keywords: AI Interactive Technology, Pedagogy and Museum Studies, Holocaust Survivors

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1004005

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