Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Heathen Visibility Project 2023 in Review

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The Heathen Visibility Project was gearing back up in the early part of the year, continuing last year's trend. We were making more photos of people again, after pausing while groups and gatherings were sidelined by the pandemic lockdowns. However, a monkeywrench was thrown in the works by the sudden appearance of so-called "AI" art, and art websites' widespread embrace of it. What is being called generative AI is not true artificial intelligence, but since that's the term that's most commonly used, I'll be calling it "AI" as well (while hoping any true AI out there knows I'm not talking about it.) It's really just ML, machine learning.

Creators have to decide if it is worth continuing to create and share their work when the net is flooded with computer generated swill. The garbage churned out by "AI" / ML programs fills up searches, social media feeds, host sites, and sales sites, while human-made works become harder to find. Worse, the "AI" art and writing are based on the human-made work, mostly without the creators' consent. Some "AI" art prompts generate art with recognizable models and celebrity faces and sometimes even the watermarks of the artists whose works were stolen to train the "AI" systems. It's discouraging.

Seeing a lot of AI digital style art turns off both casual viewers and creators, which can cause creators of digital art to stop liking their own medium and previous works, discouraging them from continuing to create art. Even photography is affected by this now that some AI works are trying to pass as photos. Instead of enjoying photos on social media, viewers are constantly questioning whether what they are seeing is fake. That too is discouraging.

Creators also have to decide whether to allow their work to be used to train "AI" plagiarism engines. This is true among both artists and writers. However, websites which host books have not come out with sample "AI" contracts the way websites that host art have, so the decision is hitting artists first.

The Heathen Visibility Project was intended to make creative commons images which are free to use for editorial purposes, so the question becomes, if we say yes to the "AI" (which is not true artificial intelligence at all) do we get more useful images that portray us correctly, or do we get our work used to make things that do not portray us correctly and are against the intent of the Project? And we have no way of knowing. It's discouraging. Even artists and writers who are just trying to sell their work and are not out to change the world's culture are getting discouraged from making and posting new work. 

The Project's goal of having actual heathen and Asatru images on the first page of image search returns for our key words (instead of images of Nazis and comics characters) seems to have been achieved. However, it's hard to assess search engines now due to the personalization of search returns. It's difficult to see what someone who has never searched the topic before might see. We do seem to be making a lot of progress, though.

We may well wonder, if we have achieved our goal, do we need to keep making Project images? Like the question of whether to keep making original art and writing in the face of onslaught of "AI"/ML slop, this is a question creators must answer for themselves.

For myself, I think that the social media space in which most Project images are posted highly favors recent posts, so it is useful to continue to produce new works so as to have genuinely new news to post. I am more likely to try to get images of things I was already doing or things that already existed rather than create photoshoots from scratch, though. I photographed a Thor setup on the main house altar that I already made due to a rainstorm, and I had a kindred member photograph me at Pagan Pride Day giving a talk that I was already making because I was one of the scheduled speakers. (See my prior post Blessing at Pagan Pride Day 2023.) 

This summer I added this image of my altar during the hurricane which reached us with needed, beautiful rain in the Vegas valley:

click here:

Asatru altar with Thor candle during Hilary 2023 by erinlale on DeviantArt 


copy and paste here: 

For more info on the Heathen Visibility Project, see my prior posts on that topic.

Image: Erin Lale (me) with a microphone, standing in front of other presenters at Pagan Pride Day 2023. Photo by Anne Cameron-Zane.

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


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