Connecting human and machine learning with creativity

19 November 2018
What will the future of work look like for creative agencies? How can technology be applied to the creative process? These will be the central questions University of Sydney academics and students will grapple with in a new partnership with advertising agency J. Walter Thompson China in Shanghai.

In a ceremony on Friday, J. Walter Thompson China (JWT China) signed on to become the first industry partner in China for innovation style projects.  The partnership with JWT China will focus on technology and digital transformation to develop creative solutions for current and future business issues.

Chief Executive Officer of J. Walter Thompson China Carter Chow (left) with Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise Engagement) at the University of Sydney Professor Richard Miles  

The partnership will kick off in December 2018 with an Industry and Community Project Unit (ICPU), that will see 16 University of Sydney students from interdisciplinary areas form small teams to develop creative, ethical and context sensitive solutions. The University introduced ICPUs earlier this year, to provide units of study based around authentic problems and issues set out by industry, community and government organisations.

“In what promises to be an exciting partnership by bringing together innovation, creativity and education, the first project will seek to find out if technology can be applied so that it elevates the creative process in business functions and processes,” Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise Engagement) Professor Richard Miles said. 

“Ultimately the partnership will work towards what actions creative agencies can take now to deliver efficiencies across their business, and to ensure creativity is able to effectively adapt to the implementation of artificial intelligence and new technologies,” Chief Executive Officer of JWT China Carter Chow said.

“We are particularly interested in exploring the connection between human and machine learning and how this will change roles in the future. We hope this is the start of many innovative and future facing topics that both JWT China and the University of Sydney can work together on solving for the creative industry.”

Our interdisciplinary groups are where the magic happens, we bring students from different disciplines together to work on a common problem.
Head of Stakeholder Engagement at the University of Sydney Danielle Godbier

"Our interdisciplinary groups are where the magic happens, we bring students from different disciplines together to work on a common problem. With 16 students working in four groups to explore how creative processes can be automated at JWT China, you will get each student group bringing a fresh perspective and new way of tackling the challenge,” said Head of Stakeholder Engagement at the University of Sydney Danielle Godbier.

“Under the supervision of academic and industry experts, our students will consider if design thinking and machine learning can be used to strike a balance between automation and retaining the human element.”

Since ICPUs were introduced in Semester 1 this year, students have had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects including a new business model for AirBnB, investigating artificial intelligence with Westpac Bank, examining the future of start-up community in China and Hong Kong with PwC.

How ICPUs work

Offered as four-week intensive courses, students will be based in Sydney for the first week, where they work through the project brief, conduct background research on the project and country. During weeks two and three, students work in Shanghai with JWT China. It is an opportunity to navigate the political, economic, socio-cultural, technological and legal context of unfamiliar international markets. The final week is spent virtually, where they write up their assessment task and undertake interactive workshops.

The ICPU initiative has been enthusiastically received by both industry and students, and to date 1000 students have been involved in 35 projects. Next year the University will double the number of places offered to our students to 2000, with the number of projects increasing to 50 in Australia and internationally.

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