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Anthropomorphizing AlphaGo: a content analysis of the framing of Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo in the Chinese and American press


This article conducts a mixed-method content analysis of Chinese and American news media coverage of Google DeepMind’s Go playing computer program, AlphaGo. Drawing on humanistic approaches to artificial intelligence, combined with an empirically rigorous content analysis, it examines the differences and overlap in coverage by the Chinese and American press in their accounts of AlphaGo, and its historic match with Korea’s Lee Sedol in March, 2016. The event was not only followed intensely in China, but also made the front page of The New York Times. This article finds that the Chinese press was more likely than the American press to frame AlphaGo as non-threatening, which the authors attribute to cultural differences and the two countries' different understandings of Go. In addition to quantitatively identifying similarities and differences in the framing of AlphaGo, this paper also investigates the underlying and evolving contestations over what constitutes the “human” and the “machine.” It concludes by discussing the implications of the study’s findings as well as outlining avenues for further research.

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Correspondence to Nathaniel Ming Curran.

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Curran, N.M., Sun, J. & Hong, JW. Anthropomorphizing AlphaGo: a content analysis of the framing of Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo in the Chinese and American press. AI & Soc 35, 727–735 (2020).

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