Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Current Community discussions

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had the proceedings of a recent conference workshop sitting on my desk all term, with no time really to look at them (even though they are very appropriate to where I want my research to go!). So now is a great time to open up that proceedings book, and talk about the themes and issues being brought to the forefront at this event...

4th International Joint Workshop on Computational Creativity, June 2007, London (Goldsmiths)

Even though the requirements for this blog entry say that I should really be discussing a conference, my particular interest in computational Creativity is not quite mainstream enough to attract regular conferences - yet. However this particular workshop is an independent event rather than a conference symposium, running over three days. It comes from a merging of two workshop series, from Creative Systems Workshops and the AISB Symposia on AI and Creativity.

Paper acceptance rate
27 submissions were made to the workshop, reviewed by at least 3 peer reviewers, and this resulted in 17 papers being presented and 3 posters accepted in addition - an acceptance rate of 20/27. Quite high but in this pioneering field a lot of work is being done in early stages and the field has not reached a maturity or depth of research yet which would merit a harsher rejection rate.

People involved and community coverage
The list of reviewers is a comprehensive list of prominent workers in Computational Creativity. Significantly (to me at least), Margaret Boden is not part of the Programme Committee, despite her important contribution to creativity theory and her near location to London. However I understand from recent conversations with researchers here that she is moving away from being involved in creativity and has always held more of a cognitive or philosophical outlook on creativity rather than a computational interest, (despite certain passages in her publishing suggesting the beginnings of a computational framework for creativity). There are a few other people missing who it would have been great to involve, but factors such as location, the lack of perceived prestige and the high specificity of the workshop theme may well explain this. Eduardo Miranda, Alice Eldredge, Philip Johnson-Laird, Robert Sternberg, David Cope and Doug Hofstadter spring to mind here (although some of these people are very high-profile academically and their involvement in a conference would instantly bring the conference much wider international kudos!). However, the presence of people such as Geraint Wiggins and Amilcar Cardoso (co-organisers), Pablo Gervas, Graeme Ritchie and Gerhard Widmer on the program committee means that there are some significant researchers here from this field. In addition, there are submissions from people such as Elaine Chew, Jon McCormack, William Latham, Ana Paiva and Chris Thornton (my supervisor), who are all people I have come across in one way or another during my two terms at Sussex. Papers are contributed from across Europe, from Australia and also from North and Central American universities - so a wide coverage.

(Its interesting that even though my voice separation project earlier this term doesn't immediately spring to mind as an obvious link to computational creativity research, there are a number of people at this conference who have carried out similar work on voice separation: Gerhard Widmer, Elaine Chew and Ana Paiva. Makes me think that maybe I can justify the inclusion of this work into a thesis on computational creativity in music... but those thoughts are definitely for a later date!)

Themes at the workshop:

I'll start with the two themes of most interest to me: Musical Creativity and Frameworks for Creativity. Then I'll work through the other themes in order of interest.

Musical Creativity

This is very interesting to me; as such little work has been done from an academic perspective on computational musical creativity, I am eager to find discussions about it. The papers presented here on musical creativity take diverse approaches, from Artificial life to statistical models. This is great as there are so many possible options here, and the field of research is very young and ripe for exploring. However there are only four papers presented at this session, I would have liked to see more depth (obviously!)

The music that is created in practical systems ranges from chord-based accompaniment for existing songs, to randomly generated musical melodies. It is interesting to see the accompaniment generation work, in particular, as this involves more musical factors than single instrument melodies due to the possibilities in the interactions between each note being played at a single time. But this work looks to be quite musicologically based, in other words it is a result of following analytical rules, rather than looking more at inspirational artistic creativity. I guess I want to see more on generation of completely novel music, without following pre-determined, strict 'rules of thumb'. I might be a little bit ambitious here in what I am looking for though, given the current state of research here.
A related paper of interest here is a discussion of evaluation and systematic improvement methods in models of harmony - definitely worth more than the skim read I have so far given it as evaluation will form a major part of my PhD thesis.

Frameworks for Creativity

As I have a very strong interest in Creativity theory, I am approaching my work from the viewpoint of realising theory in practice, rather than retrospectively engineering creative practice to fit a theoretical framework. So discussions at this session of the workshop are very relevant to me (* although I mustn't neglect research into practical creativity just because it isn't my specialist area...!)

My supervisor, Chris Thornton, presents an interesting view on Margaret Boden's creativity theory as a quantifiably realisable framework rather than a qualitative discussion of differences in creative practice. I have learnt a bit about the work he is doing in this area but it is useful to read papers like this where he puts his thoughts down to paper. Some interesting references here to look up as well.

As this is such a fledgling area of research, the papers here don't go into much depth but instead present brief discussive overviews of computational creativity theory - as I would expect to see. Again there are useful considerations of problem areas and evaluation techniques, so I think that I'll get a lot from analysing the contents of this session in more depth.

Applied Creative Systems

Like I have said earlier, I really should show more interest in this than I currently do. The actual implementation of creativity theory will hopefully for me result in a creative system or systems of my own, so I need to get a more deep view of the creative systems currently being made, rather than the broad but shallow view I currently have. There is some very interesting discussion here of creative systems demonstrating humour (which I have heard of) and one that comes up with advertising slogans (which I wasn't aware of). The creativity theory in the literature has been incorporated into the discussions to some extent, but I would like to really read these papers and see if I can work out exactly how much of the theory has actually been incorporated in the design of these systems. From previous exposure to creative systems, I suspect that only a subsection, if any, of the theory has actually been directly implemented in the systems. I'll see at a later date if my suspicions are well-founded?

Analogy and Language, and Creativity in Narrative

To be honest again, I really don't know much about this area. I am trying to be quite selective about the reading I do here, as it is a little off-topic. However they do propose some interesting modelling attempts here, which is relevant to me as I want to create computational models of creativity. Also I am starting work into models of creativity in language, with the perspective of replicating this work in musical creativity (I'm quite fascinated by the various links between music and language, especially at a neurological level - also linguistic creativity is much more studied than musical creativity, from a computational viewpoint). Pablo Gervas is one of the people I have come across so far in work on linguistic creativity, so I will take a look at the paper he has submitted here, and check out the others as part of the reading for this project, but otherwise I may spend my reading time elsewhere.

Are there any important themes that haven't been discussed at this workshop? I have to say, I can't think of any in particular, although I am not yet very up to date with current research into computational creativity.
I would have liked to see more discussion of the links between theory and practice in creativity, as this is my concentration, but I'm aware that little work has been done here. I'm sure it would have come up in discussions to some degree as both Geraint Wiggins and Pablo Gervas have done work I am aware of in this area, but then without having been to the workshop I wouldn't know (next year though...!)

So all in all, there is some useful content here, even though some people don't appear to be involved in the workshop whom I would like to have seen mentioned. As my supervisor, Chris Thornton, was involved in the workshop, we have spoken since about this workshop. He described it as interesting but not a major signpost in academic advancement! Which seems fair enough - I think I agree.

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