r _Web.log

tag: research

The Extended Composer

I have recently contributed a chapter to a Springer textbook on Computers and Creativity. Edited by Jon McCormack and Mark d'Inverno, it's a great collection of essays which emerged from a Dagstuhl seminar on computational creativity and the surrounding issues: can algorithmic systems be said to be creative? What systems can we use to evaluate creative practice - or is a "fitness function" even possible for aesthetic values? How are computing and simulation altering our philosophies of creativity?

My contribution, co-authored with Mark d'Inverno and Andrew R. Brown, sidesteps ideas of autonomous creative systems to instead focus on how we can extend our own innate creative practice using generative algorithms, particularly in the domain of music making. It attempts to delineate several ways in which we can use algorithmic tools to alter or reroute innate creativity - by suggesting new routes, enforcing constraints, or imposing new aesthetic directions.

The chapter builds extensively on Clark and Chalmers' concept of the Extended Mind, which proposes that cognitive processes can take place outside of our physical brains; for example, when we are writing notes to remember later, or shuffling tiles on a Scrabble board to jog ideas of words to play.

In homage to Clark and Chalmers, it is titled The Extended Composer.

This chapter focuses on interactive tools for musical composition which, through computational means, have some degree of autonomy in the creative process. This can engender two distinct benefits: extending our practice through new capabilities or trajectories, and reflecting our existing behaviour, thereby disrupting habits or tropes that are acquired over time. We examine these human-computer partnerships from a number of perspectives, providing a series of taxonomies based on a systems behavioural properties, and discuss the benefits and risks that such creative interactions can provoke.

It's sadly an expensive publication and only viable to most through a University library subscription.

For general readers, available here is a pre-print PDF of the The Extended Composer. Please note that this document is intended for research purposes only.

Infinite Slice

My good friend Josh Pollen is one-third of food design studio Blanch and Shock, who meld sustainable, local and seasonal food with an exotic array of chemical practices.

He has just returned from the Nordic Food Lab, the sea-faring research adjunct of Noma, at which he has been developing culinary techniques that make of insects: cockroaches, locusts, woodlice, and more. The resulting dishes were served at the Wellcome Collection Pestival event, with some beautiful results.

In more relaxed surroundings, I was surprised to find that unadorned black ants make a tangy and remarkably moreish accompaniment to a beer.

Josh documents his food work on Infinite Slice, a tumblr that is as visually rich as it is hunger-inducing. There is a satisfying tension between the overgrowth of wild meat and foliage, and the clean lines and labelled zip-lock bags of the preparation process, reflecting the order that we impose in striving to understand the teeming world around us.

Infinite Slice: Rhubarb

Infinite Slice: Pickle

Infinite Slice: Honeycomb

More: Infinite Slice

Connectivity of scientific authorship networks

Mark Newman is a physicist and mathematician whose research is focused on the structure of complex networks, from epidemiology to social relationships. The below diagram is taken from his 2000 paper on scientific coauthorship networks, and is a wonderful illustration of the small-world model (as famously typified in Erdös and Bacon numbers).

Scientific coauthorship network

As well as his prolific research output, Newman is also co-author of The Atlas of the Real World, which distorts the standard Mercator projection to illustrate localized weightings of various statistics. It's not the most aesthetically enduring of techniques, but is effective in its aims. The HIV prevalence map, with its flattened upper hemisphere, is particularly haunting.

mp3 artefacts becoming preferred by young listeners?

K http://radar.oreilly.com/.../...

O'Reilly Radar reports that the 'sizzle' sound of mp3 artefacts is becoming increasingly preferred by music listeners. Yes, preferred; in listening tests performed annually over 6 years, listeners have increasingly rated songs with low-bitrate mp3 compression above those that a higher rate.

The author suggests that this is akin to vinyl listeners preferring the crackle of wax over the cleanness of digital recordings — though I have always figured that the vinyl preference is less subjective and more to do with its innate warmth and high-frequency rolloff. The "hot dog at the ball park" analogy is compelling, however, and there's undeniably something comforting about (say) the compression of FM radio when indoors on a cold winter's night, or listening to a cassette through a battered pair of headphones. It's not inconceivable that the mp3 sizzle could be headed for the same fate.

Zane Berzina's E-static Shadows

Zane Berzina is a Latvian researcher working across the boundaries of textiles, electronics and theory to produce beautiful physical artefacts, with a strong focus on the design and production processes. Her recent practice, at LCF, manifest itself in a series of investigations using the skin as an analogy for textile surfaces to create "polysensual, therapeutic and interactive environments". She's now based at Goldsmiths, with links to the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles.

Her current work is, on display at the Science Museum's Dana Centre (last day today!), exposes the pervasive forces and potential of electrostatic in fabrics: E-Static Shadows.

E-Static Shadows

It's the product of a two-year research project which is beautifully documented on her website. For those around London, there's a talk tonight exploring the issues surrounding this research:

How can electrostatic energy enhance the sensory experience of our surroundings? Join designer Zane Berzina, architect Jackson Tan and material scientist Mark Miodownik in our e-static shadows installation to talk future textiles. Explore the invisible forces of electrostatics in this night of playful interactions.

More information here.

Mosquito buzz harmonised in mating practices

K http://scienceblogs.com/.../...

mosquito Research from Cornell University, and published in this month's Science (requires subscription), indicates that there is purpose behind the mosquito's buzz besides keeping its human neighbours awake at night: male and female mosquitoes induce harmonic convergence within the frequency spectra of their hums as part of their mating practice. Contradicting earlier research which suggests that males have a highly limited hearing range whilst females are entirely deaf, both sexes were shown to modulate their buzzing frequencies to enter into harmonic love-making.

More info, and video, on Wired's Not Rocket Science.

South London sound art events

Tomorrow (January 31st) at Goldsmiths University, Joe Banks of Disinformation is talking on Rorschach audio and the tendency to romanticize and creatively inflate perceived EVP phenomena:

“Rorschach Audio” offers the primary hypothesis that an understanding of the relevant aspects of psychoacoustics provides a complete explanation for most EVP recordings, and a secondary hypothesis that an informed understanding of these processes is as important to understanding the emergent field of sound art as studies of optical illusions have historically been to understanding visual art.

Next month (February 22nd), Experiment 1 Arts Collective present Flesh and Flame, a night of performance art, music, sculpture and flesh, taking place at Corsica Studios in Elephant. It looks to be a great night, and tickets are half price until the end of January.