People / Graduate Students

Current Graduate Students

Julia Irwin


Artificial intelligence, media theory, philosophy of technology, media art, surveillance, historiography.
Julia Irwin


Julia Irwin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley, with a Designated Emphasis in New Media. Her dissertation,”Patterning Recognition: Automated Perception in the Long Twentieth Century” is a conceptual history of artificial intelligence, with a focus on its applications to surveillance in 20th-century U.S. military and industrial institutions. Offering a historiographic lens through which to address contemporary problems of AI bias, “Patterning Recognition” examines the politics of translating human vision into a process amenable to machine automation. It reveals how the very concept of perception itself has been modeled in conjunction with institutional efforts to manage uncertainty and organize power relations. Her broader research and teaching agenda contributes humanities methods of inquiry to contend with the implications of artificial intelligence, from questions of how we interpret media generated by AI (e.g., Dall-E and ChatGPT) to how we account for AI’s role as a social actor whose aesthetic and juridical decisions produce change at a scale and speed that exceed phenomenal perception. Her peer-reviewed work can be found in Film History (forthcoming) and Ki (Qui Parle).

Julia’s research has been supported by the Mabelle McLeod Lewis Memorial Fund, the Phi Beta Kappa Alpha Chapter of California Dissertation Fellowship, the Berkeley Center for New Media’s Lyman Dissertation Fellowship, and the Berkeley Fellowship. She has also been awarded grants from the Mellon Foundation and the Berkeley Center for Technology, Policy, and Society, and has presented to the California State Legislature Tech Caucus as a subject matter expert on AI and surveillance. She has served on the Executive Committee for the UC Berkeley Center for New Media and co-led the Townsend Center for the Humanities New Media Working Group.

Coming from a background in the arts, Julia has also curated film programs and art exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) and UC Berkeley’s Worth Rider Gallery and Platform Artspace, including the 2021 new media show Refamiliarization. She was formerly a Research Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts’ ITP program. Her artwork has exhibited at/in the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Print Screen Festival, the Magnum Foundation, and The New York Times Op-Docs. Support for her artwork has come from Tisch School of the Arts, Arte, and the National Film Board of Canada.

Courses Taught: Digital Interfaces (Reading & Composition), The Figure of the Cyborg (Reading & Composition), Documentary Forms, Film History & Form.