AI technology from the USC Viterbi School work to increase representation in film and media

Partnering with the Geena Davis Institute, USC Viterbi is helping expand the technology’s capability to recognize Latinx representation.

The Viterbi School of Engineering is collaborating with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to expand on the Spellcheck for Bias software to detect and support more on-screen Latinx representation.

The Spellcheck for Bias technology analyzes scripts, manuscripts and advertising briefs to breakdown characters by race, gender, sexual orientation and disability and will be expanded to identify Latinx representation as well.

Shri Narayanan, USC engineering professor and director of Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL), said that the tool will use artificial intelligence technology to understand various aspects of the story that could reveal patterns of biases.

Additionally, the program aims to identify character attributes like violence and discrimination and reveal unconscious bias in whether Latinx characters are represented correctly. This will allow script adjustment and casting decisions to be reflected more realistically.

Narayanan added that the technology will be able to not only detect the number of lines a character has but also the quality attributes of the character.

Academy Award-winning actress Geena Davis founded The Geena Davis Institute in 2004 to research and advocate for gender representation in Hollywood films. Since then, the institute has contributed vast efforts in research and recently found that females occupied 55.3% of screen time and 50.3% of speaking time in children television programs in 2018.

The institute will soon release its “See Jane 2020 report,” which tracks diversity representation in the top 100 movies and films. According to the institute, their upcoming research shows that Latinx representation is still lacking in U.S. films, with Latinx Americans making up for 4.7 percent of characters, despite being 18.3 percent of the U.S. population.

This isn’t the only media inclusion initiative at USC. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiation focuses on diversity and inclusion research, advocacy and action within the entertainment industry. It’s 2019 annual report found that only 16% of directors from top 2019 films were from underrepresented groups.

Spellcheck for Bias is a tool that intends to be a creative tool that helps increase these numbers.

“Hopefully [this technology] will contribute to more inclusive ways of telling stories,” Narayanan said. “That’s our hope, that it will contribute to creating an inclusive society.”