29 May 2024

Meet Guyana’s Amrita Naraine Who Is Using Data Science and Artificial Intelligence to Impact the Caribbean’s Creative Industries

Read Time:11 Minute, 27 Second

Amrita’s journey to the United Kingdom began with a dream to combine her passion for the creative arts with the power of data science and artificial intelligence. As a Chevening scholar, she was given the opportunity to pursue her MSc in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence for the Creative Industries, a field that is rapidly growing and transforming various sectors.

Throughout her MSc program, Amrita has been immersed in a multidisciplinary curriculum that combines technical skills with a deep understanding of the creative industries. She has learned how to analyze large datasets, develop machine learning models, and apply them to real-world scenarios in the creative sector. This unique blend of technical expertise and artistic knowledge has equipped her with the tools to drive innovation and make a meaningful impact in her chosen field.

Looking towards the future, Amrita is excited to bring her newfound knowledge and skills back to Guyana. She envisions leveraging data science and artificial intelligence to empower local artists and creative professionals, helping them reach wider audiences and unlock new opportunities. Amrita believes that the intersection of technology and creativity has the potential to drive economic growth and social development in her home country.

Tell us about yourself: Who are you, where are you from and how has your upbringing and experiences influenced your academic and career choices?

Allow me firstly, to express my heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to share my journey with you, the Karibbean Kollective. I’m Amrita, a Chevening Scholar, EU Campaign Influencer, and Lead Researcher, with a passion for driving innovation at the intersection of R&D, strategy, and policy analysis. On a more interpersonal level, I’m the author of the Guyana Prize-nominated poetry anthology, ‘The 27th. Letter of the Alphabet.’ My journey has been characterised by relentless pursuit of excellence and a commitment to leveraging my expertise towards socio-developmental impact.

This comes from my having been brought up in Georgetown, Guyana. Growing up in Guyana instilled in me a deep appreciation for the interconnectedness of people and ideas. It taught me the value of the complexities of human experience and community which continue to shape my approach to research, advocacy, and creative expression. With a strong skillset in the physical sciences, I have always been drawn to the transformative potential of technology and innovation, and the inherent creativity it holds.

Can you tell us about your decision to pursue an MSc in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence for the Creative Industries?

I’ve long been captivated by the innate curiosity that drives humankind’s quest for understanding. It’s this enduring fascination that fuels my determination to be the person who can provide the answers and solutions sought after. I’ve always taken pride in resourcefulness, and this I believe fundamentally hinges on creativity and the intellectual prowess of creators. I’m also a firm believer in a model that treats the value of goods and services as derived from the innovative ideas and expertise of those who produce them. This includes every business or initiative for that matter, that is deeply rooted in creativity across various fields, including art, culture, research, science, and technology. I’m a profound admirer of data science and AI’s capabilities to scientifically and creatively simulate human intelligence, and enable humanity’s natural disposition towards more innovative thinking and action; that is creativity in itself. It is for all these reasons that I was certain my chosen path within Data Science and AI for the Creative Industries was not just suitable, but perfectly aligned with my aspirations and capabilities.

How has your experience been studying at the University of Arts, London?

As the top institution globally for arts and design, studying at University of the Arts London is nothing short of rewarding. I’m interacting with creatives like myself across all of its collegiates, and I’ve been able to access state-of-the-art equipment with the latest software and hardware unimaginable, allowing me to be immersed deeply in digital media, interactive design, and computational arts.

I’ve been able to learn from industry leaders like WPP.  Another key experience for me has been exploring signal processing, visualisation and movement, and deep fakes. Learning from the prestigious CCI researchers and benefitting from industrial product teams like Google Brain are proving time and time again to be the most valuable mentorship I’ve received.

I’ve also been using my platform at UAL to create meaningful impact through personal initiatives close to my heart, particularly towards the decolonisation of the arts. One such initiative is my workshop series, “Decoding Ancestral Narratives” which focuses on the interrelation among post-colonialism in the Caribbean, linguistics and literature. My work also involves the ‘Ecotopian Lexicon’, a vital part of open-source English comprising creoles and pidgins. My journey at UAL is as much about personal growth and activism as it has been about academic excellence and creativity, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to disruptive innovation within the arts and beyond.

What motivated you to apply for the Chevening Scholarship?

The decision to apply for the Chevening scholarship was rooted in my belief in the power of leadership, willpower itself, and one’s own relentless recognition and deliberate exercise of their academic intellect. As someone who values continuous growth and learning, I saw the Chevening scholarship as a unique opportunity to further effect my leadership abilities and academic prowess. I believe that true leadership is not only about achieving personal success; it’s about empowering others and driving meaningful change in the world.

Knowledge is a powerful tool that can be leveraged pragmatically in any given setting. Whether in academia, business, or community development, I am confident in my ability to apply my knowledge effectively and make a tangible impact. I hold the conviction that knowledge never goes to waste. Every lesson learned, every skill acquired, contributes to personal growth and development. I am committed to lifelong learning and see the Chevening scholarship as a continuation of this journey—a chance to expand my horizons, deepen my understanding of global issues, and ultimately, make a meaningful difference in the world.

Can you share some highlights and challenges of your Chevening journey?

Before applying for the Chevening scholarship, I dedicated significant effort to developing a well-rounded portfolio in research and actively engaging in civil and social action initiatives. This commitment was driven by my aspiration to embody the leader I envision myself as—a leader who is not only academically proficient but also socially conscious and community-oriented. I often humorously describe myself as someone who “enjoys doing an overwhelming amount of things at the same time.” This lighthearted quip reflects my passion for embracing diverse interests and challenges.

That being said, one of my highlights has been the opportunity to explore the intersection of AI and wider technology in the development of the arts through immersive experiences such as United Visual Artists. I’m also presenting at the annual Chevening Conference to demonstrate the relationship between AI and creativity within the context of the Orange Economy.

Being a Chevening scholar is a wonderful journey of cultural exploration and personal growth. Immersing myself in the vibrant and diverse cultures of London, one of my dream cities, has broadened my perspectives and enriched my experiences. I’ve had the privilege of embracing and documenting differentiated cultures and forging meaningful connections with people from all walks of life within the ‘Square Mile.’

Adjusting to life in a new country presented its own set of challenges, from navigating cultural differences to adapting to a different social environment. Yet, I’ve come to see these challenges as opportunities; they have pushed me to become more independent and vocal, and have provided a chance to turn my ideas into reality. My Chevening journey is truly one of the most remarkable chapters in my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this global community of scholars.

How do you think your studies will influence your future work in the Caribbean’s creative and cultural industries?

Having the outgoing guts to pursue anything, not confined by limited concepts, but driven by a key vision, is paramount. For me, this vision crystallised in the choice of furthering research—the heart of every ounce of curiosity, and the focal point for finding and implementing solutions. Having had the opportunity to explore independent research projects led me to develop computational approaches to literature, sentiment analysis, and generative modelling. Additionally, I have been equipped with the skills to build an astrophysics portfolio using data science principles.

Throughout my studies, I have been able to dabble freely across the philosophy of the physical sciences while harnessing the inherent creativity of these disciplines. I have explored the adoption of data science and AI in various branches of the arts, including design, fashion, imagery, music, research and development, and gaming. Research is the most fundamental element through which all disciplines evolve towards innovation.

In the Caribbean, where the creative and cultural industries are heavily understudied, I am looking to facilitate a more rigorous research industry in Guyana and across the Caribbean; one that prioritises innovation and creativity. By advocating for increased investment in research and development, as well as promoting collaboration among academia, industry, and government, I’m keen on advancing the Caribbean’s creative industries to new heights through similar projects.

What specific skills or knowledge do you hope to bring back to the Caribbean upon completion of your course?

Upon completion of my course, I’m looking to apply sophisticated data science and AI techniques within the Caribbean’s creative sectors, such as machine learning algorithms and predictive modelling, tailored to the unique characteristics of Caribbean culture and society. With a deep understanding of research methodologies, I’m looking forward to leading comprehensive studies that inform decision-making and policy development in the cultural dimensions of the creative economy.

This is all in favour of championing the interests of the Caribbean’s creative and cultural sectors to the degree of increased investment in creative education, infrastructure, and entrepreneurship support programmes, as well as promoting diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in cultural production and consumption practices.

My goal is to bring tangible expertise, actionable insights, and strategic networks that will empower the Caribbean’s creative and cultural industries to thrive in an increasingly digital and globalised world.

How do you see data science and artificial intelligence shaping the future of the Caribbean’s creative industries?

In the Caribbean’s regional technology economy, data science and AI application lies in cultural content curation, where these technologies enable precise tailoring of creative outputs to suit the diverse preferences of local audiences, simultaneously attracting global interest. By analysing consumption patterns and cultural trends, Caribbean content creators and traditional creatives, including AI creatives, can leverage data science to craft compelling narratives that resonate deeply with their target markets.

As the Caribbean’s creative industries continue to flourish, the protection of intellectual property rights becomes increasingly necessary, and this will require safeguarding the economic value of creative works. Data science and AI also facilitate the incubation of creative industry startups and ventures. This supportive ecosystem not only fosters job creation and economic diversification but also reinforces the Caribbean’s position as a hub for creativity and innovation on the global stage.

What advice would you give to other Caribbean students who are considering applying for the Chevening Scholarship, specifically in Data Science, AI and the Creative Industries?

Beyond academic achievements and professional aspirations, what truly sets you apart is being authentically yourself. To position yourself as a future leader and innovator in the field, one must stand as a Creative who never makes excuses when turning their ideas into reality.

Your creative mindset, your ability to think outside the box, and your track record of taking innovative concepts and transforming them into tangible outcomes are most harmonious when your work is grounded in solid research and empirical evidence.

In a world where apprehensions about AI’s potential to surpass human intelligence and autonomy are commonplace, it’s easy to be daunted by the possibilities it presents. However, as a Creative, you possess a unique perspective—one that sees beyond the apprehension to the boundless opportunities for innovation. The field of AI is constantly evolving, with new techniques, technologies, and methodologies emerging regularly.

Make a commitment to lifelong learning, and cultivate a curious mindset. Always approach your work with a sense of humility and respect for the complexity of the problems you’re trying to solve.

Lastly, how do you plan to continue your involvement in civil and social action initiatives in the future?

Central to my vision is the promotion of the intellectual value of creators and the cultivation of a paradigm shift in how we perceive AI. My objective is to quantify and amplify the contributions of creators, ensuring they receive fair recognition and compensation for their work. Through advocacy and collaboration with industry stakeholders, I am dedicated to serving a culture that values and respects the creative process.

Rather than succumbing to fear and uncertainty, we must embrace a more positive and constructive outlook that acknowledges AI as an ethical tool for supporting human ingenuity. Spearheading educational initiatives and public awareness campaigns aimed at dispelling misconceptions surrounding AI and promoting its responsible and ethical use within the creative industries is at the heart of my concern.

My mission is anchored in the pursuit of a future where creators are esteemed as the driving force behind cultural evolution, and AI is one of its greatest allies in the pursuit of artistic excellence and societal progress. I am poised to lead the charge towards the convergence of creativity and technology.

You can keep up with Amrita on LinkedIn.

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