Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Creativity and Cognition 2009 conference, 27-30 Oct, Berkeley, CA

Off to California to attend the 2009 Creativity and Cognition conference. I'm presenting my PhD work to date at the graduate symposium on the first day then have the rest of the conference to look forward to.  Will record my thoughts here after the conference.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Conceptual art

In a discussion about how you could place a value on a piece of art, I've been introduced to "conceptual art". This is when the artistic process is of far higher importance than the end-product itself; in fact the end-product becomes almost irrelevant - merely a side-effect of the process being executed.

Sol LeWitt defined Conceptual Art in "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art", Artforum, June 1967, as:
In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.
If assessing how creative a piece of conceptual art is, solely by evaluating the product, then there are two negative consequences:
  1. The primary intentions of the artist are ignored (the artist is more focussed on how the art is made than what the result is).
  2. The level of creativity presented will probably be underestimated, especially if the art results in producing something that might seem commonplace outside the context of that art installation.
For example Tracey Emin's unmade bed, no matter what your opinion of it as a piece of art, was intended to have greater significance than just to picture a dirty bed.

Another example is Duchamp's Fountain (1917): an exhibit of a urinal, entitled 'Fountain', by Marcel Duchamp. With this piece, Duchamp intended the focus to be on how it was interpreted as the choice for this artwork, rather than the physical object itself.

Duchamp submitted the Fountain to an art exhibition for the Society of Independent Artists, where every submission would be accepted and exhibited. Duchamp's submission sparked a debate with the judging panel (of which Duchamp was himself a member!) as to whether this was in fact a piece of art. Eventually the Fountain was included in the exhibition but hidden from sight and Duchamp resigned from the Society board.

Since then though, the Fountain has been judged the most influential modern art work of all time. Who was right, the 500 art experts who made this judgement or the panel who rejected the Fountain as not being a piece of art?

While I don't intend this post to express that the creative process is far more important than the creative product, for me this is interesting evidence as to why process is as important as product.

There is an interesting discussion on the philosophy of conceptual art at Schellekens, Elisabeth, "Conceptual Art", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL =

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

A ground truth for creativity (or lack of)

My officemate and I had quite an interesting discussion yesterday as to whether there is a 'right' or a 'wrong' answer to give, when you assess how creative something is.

Different people come up with different assessments, based on a whole range of factors such as their expertise in that domain, their knowledge of the process by which creative products are produced, personal opinion and bias according to their tastes, and the amount of time and effort which they give to the assessment.

Part of my work involves a computational system which produces so-called creative behaviour and then assesses how creative that behaviour is, as part of feedback into refining the creative process. (I shall discuss this work in more depth in a future post, when it is further developed.)

How do I test whether the system 'works', i.e. whether its behaviour could be deemed creative and its self-assessment of its own creativity is accurate? There is no ground-truth for creativity; in fact this lack of ground-truth is the central research problem I am addressing! To test its performance against other creativity measurements is to test one theory against another rather than testing the model against real life.

So lets test the model against real life - compare its judgements of creativity to judgements made by people. If there is a large crossover and agreement between machine and people, then the machine is making a good job of approximating human assessment of creativity: the only guide we have to follow at present.

Next problem: what if my system is proven to perform well against some 'right answer', coming up with a satisfactory evaluation of the creativity present in the system - does this mean my system is also 'right'? I would say no, it is not coming up with a universally correct assessment: because no such universally correct assessment exists. We can approximate what a number of people would collectively decide about a system or item's creativity, and aim to match the consensus of opinion. More often than not, however, someone will disagree...

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Retiring the 'someone please fund my phd' label

Got two years funding for my phd :) from my department at Sussex. 

The news came totally out of the blue, just as I was preparing to start the round of funding applications again. Wonderful news!

Word frequencies: some fun

Having just written a paper on how the frequency of a word in a document can give us an idea of the semantics of that document, I thought it would be fun to run my paper through word cloud software, to summarise it by frequency... here is the result (courtesy of http://www.wordle.net)

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Definitions of creativity: common words used

This word cloud is the result of an analysis of definitions of creativity. It highlights the words used most commonly by people when defining what creativity is, in short dictionary-style definitions.

I took 23 online definitions of creativity (retrieved via a Google search, either in the form of a dictionary entry or as a brief definition of creativity). These definitions were merged together in one text file and fed through the online analysis tool at www.wordle.net, resulting in the word cloud pictured.

Besides the obvious appearance of words such as 'creativity', words which appear prominently include new, originality, ability, imaginative, process, produce, ideas and so on. The results show which words we commonly use to describe what creativity is. This gives us a good idea of what factors to examine further when deciding whether something is creative or not.

This work was based on brief definitions of creativity of one or a few sentences long, maximum one paragraph.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Creativity and Cognition conference 2009, Berkeley, California

Here's my 1-page summary of my research, which I am presenting in California in October. The work I'm presenting is starting to develop again nicely, with some case studies which I'll probably blog about in the next few posts.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

back on track...

Its been a strange month or so, trying to reassess where I am and whats happening with my phd.

In good news, my submission to the graduate symposium for the Creativity and Cognition Conference got accepted, along with some fairly substantial funding to go to California in October.

I'm rescaling what I am doing slightly, examining a particular domain as a test case for assessing creativity, then using this practical work to consider creativity more widely (although this consideration may not be practically realised in this PhD work).

One of my major problems with the assessment criteria suggested by Graeme Ritchie (2007, 2001) is that while it appears to be a methodology for assessing creativity, in practice it is too unspecified to produce meaningful results. As Ritchie is proposing a framework for anything creative, by definition he has to keep the framework generic and cannot define particular parts of the framework (such as: various measurements of the level of novelty in this program's output must be above the threshold of {theta} in order to satisfy certain criteria - so what is {theta}?)

My work suffered from the same criticism: by being very generalisable, it ended up saying almost nothing? It needed more surrounding context to ground it.

So now I'm concentrating on musical creativity again, specifically in jazz improvisation as its an area that interests me within music and there are a number of jazz generation systems of interest, which I am looking up:
  • Philip Johnson Laird's work
  • GenJam by Al Biles
  • Paul Hodgson's various jazz generation systems (described in his 2006 DPhil thesis)
  • Jeff Pressing
  • etc: I'm sure I'm missing lots out...

At the same time, I'm going to continue thinking about what is important for something to be considered creative.

Rather than looking for an over-arching and complete classification system for creativity though, I am looking for the important themes that are incorporated in creativity. With a few different practical projects on how to find these themes, added to my own intuitions on what is important, I'll identify a small set, test that set to see how it matches to human assessments of creativity, then re-juggle the set as necessary.

Graeme Ritchie's assessment methodology will be a starting point for me, although I think that what I end up with will be quite different from his suggestions.

I have to bear in mind that what turns out to be important for judging jazz generation systems may well be less important for other domains of creativity (in fact this is almost certainly going to be the case). But I shall cross that bridge when I come to it, rather than worrying about it too much in advance.

G. Ritchie. Assessing creativity. In Proceedings of AISB Symposium on AI and Creativity in Arts and Science, 2001.
G. Ritchie. Some empirical criteria for attributing creativity to a computer program. Minds and Machines, 17:67–99, 2007.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

2nd year review


Having been on the receiving end of almost continuous criticism of my work, in my annual review yesterday, I am now at a bit of a loss as to what to do next.

Although I was expecting a bit of a grilling, I hadn't realised quite how much my proposals would get attacked. Although some of the comments were based upon my having not explained certain things properly (for example stressing that the factors I break creativity down into must be more clearly defined than creativity itself, otherwise how do you measure those factors and what benefit is there for that factor being included?), other comments were far more fundamental, questioning my entire approach.

I've gone from having a very clear idea of what I'm doing and why, and a real focus and motivation, to feeling quite lost again. Now I want to arrange a meeting with my supervisors sooner rather than later, as at this stage I wanted to be really getting on with practical work rather than still questioning what exactly I'm doing.

I guess watch this space?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Went to a fairly non-eventful research training session today, on scientific writing. Beyond this quite useful wikiversity link on how to write in a scientific way, the only real benefit I got from this (apart from a break from marking!) was to think about what journals I want to be aiming for, for publication.

As my research focus has shifted away from music and towards creativity and evaluation this year, many of the journals I have been used to looking at have become less relevant. So now I've set up some content alerts for some new journals and need to get used to looking at different journals (ideally I want to set aside some time for this each week to browse some journal content).

Here's a list of the journals that are quite relevant for me (along with some journals on music/AI that I prob will still find interesting but not necessarily useful for my current work):
  • Creativity Research Journal (impact factor 0.57)
  • Lecture notes in AI
  • Lecture notes in CS (probably not so relevant anymore really)
  • Leonardo (and related journals)
  • Digital Creativity
  • Cognitive Science (impact factor 2.179)
  • Topics in Cognitive Science (impact factor 9.389)
  • Cognitive Science: A multidisciplinary journal
  • Minds and Machines
  • Journal of Creative Behaviour (0.429) (we don't get it)
  • Creativity
  • Creative Review (not peer reviewed, doesn't look that relevant)
  • Psychology of aesthetics, creativity and the arts
  • Evaluation
  • Evaluation review
  • Research evaluation

  • AISB quarterly (not really a journal..!)
Music-related journals:
  • Journal of New Music Research
  • Computer Music Journal
  • Psychology of Music
  • Music Perception
  • Musicae Scientae
  • Journal of interdisciplinary music studies
  • Journal of music and meaning
  • Contemporary music review

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Culturally Responsive Evaluation

Found an article in the Encyclopaedia of Evaluation (SAGE publications) that gave me one or two points to think about - Culturally Responsive Evaluation (Stafford L. Hood and Barbara Rosenstein).

This article was looking primarily at educational evaluation in general (i.e. not specific to creativity) and some anthropological research as an appendix to the main article. Education is a key domain in which evaluation and assessment takes place (others that spring to mind after browsing this encyclopaedia include Health, Finance and Decision Science).

The article discusses how people from different cultures can be evaluated in the same set of evaluations and whether cultural implications are overlooked to some extent in traditional evaluation.

Leander Boykin (no reference given), working in the 1940's and 1950's, came up with "a set of 10 guiding principles, characteristics and functions of effective evaluation". I could try and look these up, although I think they've probably been replicated a few times since then if they have stood the test of time. Haven't seen this reference to Boykin before but then I've been reading work from different disciplines to this before now.

Ralph Tyer is presented as a major figure in educational evaluation. He placed emphasis away from 'achievement testing', to include instead the merit and value of teaching, influence of curriculum and student growth: in other words more 'value added' concerns.

I wonder how 'value-added' is measured in education, for league tables? I think its to do with taking results at a younger age, say SATS, and comparing them to results at leaving age (GCSEs and/or A-levels) - but then how does this work for primary schools, or to capture improvement during ages when students are not assessed (e.g. are they assessed between starting school and SATS)? Would be good to look this up.

The relevant points I got from this article:
  • Remember who is the audience you're evaluating for and what is the point of this evaluation?
  • Culture has a large influence on evaluating the 'worthiness' of something. To evaluate from a multicultural (cf. multi discipline/cross-paradigm) perspective, you need to recognise the input of these implications and include it in the evaluation methodology - perhaps including people who are familiar with a particular perspective/culture or at least take guidance from such people.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Measuring Consciousness (talk by Anil Seth at Sussex)

Yesterday Anil Seth, one of the researchers at Sussex University, gave a seminar to the COGS research group on: Measuring Consciousness - from behaviour to neurophysiologyAn abstract and references can be found at http://www.sussex.ac.uk/cogs/seminars

This idea of measuring something which is not so amenable to measurement is very close to my work in measuring creativity, so this was pretty useful for me. 

In summary

  • Anil is advocating that we measure consciousness by combining several measures of properties of consciousness rather than by trying to find one catch-all measure of consciousness
  • He is working by examining tests that measure some property of consciousness then intends to combine the results for a more general measure of consciousness
  • The measures of consciousness/properties of consciousness are taken from a variety of backgrounds, not just behavioural and neurophysiological measures but also originating from complexity theory and even economics (Granger causality)
  • This approach is very similar to mine, the main difference that I can see is that Anil is working more in a 'bottom-up' way, integrating tests together and seeing how the tests match intuition, refining continuously, rather than a more top-down approach of determining beforehand a set of properties of consciousness then finding suitable tests for each property. His is a more immediately hands-on approach (and is I think the approach my supervisor favours for my work) although I'm not sure how he is avoiding the situation where some vital factor of consciousness may be overlooked just because few or no measures exist for it at present

For more detail... read on!

Anil started by justifying the need to make measurements of consciousness as being vital for a scientific study of consciousness: as a proof that consciousness is actually present and to what degree the thing being studied is conscious (as opposed to a discrete yes/no answer to whether it is conscious). This corresponds very closely to my motivation for measuring creativity.

The idea of consciousness existing at different levels - from primary consciousness e.g. being aware of what you see in front of you, to higher order consciousness e.g. being aware of being aware of seeing something in front of you - was quite intriguing. Are there different levels of creativity? Meta-creativity, being creative about creativity? (Is this what I'm doing, being creative about creativity?) It seems like a fascinating question but perhaps not one for my current work, it could be more distracting than practically useful. Anil didn't go into much detail on this either. 

To actually measure consciousness, Anil discussed both behavioural measures and brain-based measures, saying that to measure consciousness you can't just measure one thing, you have to combine several different measurements of different properties. The aspects you measure have to be both differentiable (i.e. you can make divisions between them, and treat them as different things) and also integratable (i.e. you can combine them all together in a reasonable way, they don't obstruct each other). They also have to be measurable. I asked him afterwards if his intention was to use a combination of behavioural and neurophysiological measurements for measuring consciousness, as his talk focussed more on the details of individual measurements rather than the mechanics of combining them. From his answer, I think that this is the intention but in practice the individual measurements are still being refined. 

This approach is very close to my own approach in measuring creativity, the idea of measuring several properties and factors of consciousness/creativity which combine for a more general measurement of that concept. Both work sees a multi-disciplinary input, combining measures from different research areas. Where Anil differs is in his approach to developing the measurement methodology. Rather than determine what properties need to be measured first, then find tests to match them, he finds tests for consciousness, then acknowledges that they only measure part of consciousness, or only fit with certain theories about consciousness, without being useful for other theories.

It seems Anil is combining together all tests that he finds to be useful (by seeing whether they produce a measurement of consciousness that matches what is expected), without worrying about the wider picture of whether this is getting an accurate snapshot of all the properties associated with consciousness. There is an ongoing reflection on how the tests are used, leading to refinement of the tests. This is especially the case when tests produce different measurements of creativity. Studying the reasons why they diverge can give further insight into consciousness, making the tests useful beyond the actual measurements they provide.


I wonder if this approach will lead to a slight bias in measuring consciousness? The properties that are more amenable to testing will, by the nature of research, probably be better provided for in terms of tests available, whereas those properties that are slightly trickier to test (but nonetheless still equally valid in defining what consciousness is composed of) may not be so well catered for in terms of tests available? This is the scenario I'm trying to avoid with the approach I am taking.

But on the other hand, consciousness (and creativity) is not something that can be reduced to a mathematical formula e.g. 4*complexity + (0.5*awareness) etc etc - so is there any point in seeing which factors contribute more than others? Or is it all too subjective and potentially leading me to over-define creativity? As I'm coming across in a few of the books on creativity I'm reading at the moment, once you make a tight and fast definition of creativity, you run the risk of not measuring creativity itself anymore, but just a subset of creativity. In his talk, Anil was very careful to suggest only a working definition of consciousness, not wanting to spend time discussing the finer points of this.

I know my supervisor is more in favour of my taking a similar approach to Anil's, slowly building up a battery of tests and discarding those which don't seem useful. So far I have not been sure that this bottom-up approach is as suitable as my top-down approach, despite the extra preparatory work it entails in determining how to define creativity via such criteria. But perhaps I can attack the work from both directions, and see which pays off? (or maybe make the two approaches meet in the middle?)

I'll just briefly summarise the content of the rest of Anil's talk, the parts which could be useful for me as I look into what tests I could use to measure properties of creativity.

Measurements of consciousness through behavioural measures:

  • Objective: getting participants to make accurate choices under forced decision making conditions
  • Strategic control: examining participants' ability to use or to not use knowledge according to instructions (again looking at choices made by participant but now under different motivations for the participant)
  • Subject measures: do participants know what they know? (and can they tell us?)
  • Post-decision wagering (participants place bets which reflect their confidence in answers given during experiments - Persaud et al 2007, Nature Neuroscience) and other recent measures (e.g. Shields, Ruffman) like allocating confidence ratings to responses in an experimental situation(Anil described work which showed that post-decision wagering was really equivalent to confidence ratings)

Here different measures fit in with different interpretations of or theories about consciousness - the measures and the theories/interpretations are interdependent.

Measurements of consciousness using brain-based measures:

  • Various methods of capturing brain activity, e.g. EEG activity, ERP
  • While subjects are awake, their brain activity indicates more irregular activity than when they are asleep (and lower frequence EEG recordings? Berger 1929) - indicating that consciousness is only present when we are awake? Or present to a greater degree when we are awake? This doesn't fit in with the work by Tononi that Anil discussed, which treats consciousness as being a capacity for conscious information transfer/activity rather than the actual transfer/activity - Tononi may probably argue that we are just as conscious when we are asleep as when we are awake, its not something that can be switched on or off as we wake up or fall asleep. The capacity for us being conscious remains the same regardless of our actual acknowledgement of being conscious)
  • Dynamical complexity as a key indicator of the presence of consciousness (complex behaviour and information exchange in a dynamic system i.e. a system which can change) (Q. So is there a threshold value of complexity, so that if a system's complexity is above this value than it can be deemed to be (to some degree) conscious?...)

Measures of dynamical complexity

  • Neural complexity (all the possible combinations of dividing a collection of neurons into 2 subsets, and how much information can be retrieved from these subsets)
  • Information integration (the capacity for a system to integrate information dynamically, as opposed to the actual activity - Tononi 2004)
  • Causal density (Seth 2005, 2008) Based on Granger causality: the correlation between two variables (in one direction: seeing if activity in one variable helps predict activity in another variable)

Why use different measures in parallel? to capture subtly different aspects and to override small deficiencies with individual measures (and to avoid overemphasising one measure at the expense of others - which measure do you choose to trust). Gaillard et al 2009 is a good example of putting together multiple measures in parallel, agreeing that there is no single measurement for concsiousness but several potential measurements.

How to decide what to measure and what measurements to use? (especially if different measures are getting different results). There are some boundaries of whether something is conscious to some degree, although these aren't so discrete (conscious or not conscious). Intuition helps, and if two measures give different results, this is good for refining the interaction of measures (although surely good for criticising the relevance of the measures as well? Although Anil didn't really discuss that). Implementation details will also play a part in choosing measures: what is appropriate and reasonable to use in a given scenario.

Useful references:

  • Behavioural measures of consciousness: Seth 2008 (Consc Cog), Seth et al 2008 (Trends Cog Sci), Persaud et al 2007 (Nature Neuroscience) (post decision wagering)
  • Brain based measures of consciousness: Berger 1929
  • Measures of complexity: Tononi 2004 (BMC Neuroscience), Seth 2005 (Network Comp Neur Sys), Seth 2008 (Cogn Neurodynamics)
  • Structural properties of consciousness: Seth 2009 (Cog Computation), Seth & Clowes 2008 (AI in medicine)
  • Using different measures in parallel: Integrating multiple measures in parallel Gaillard et al 2009 (PLOS Biol)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Time plan for work for the next 18 months...

This timeplan looks super organised but was actually the result of a long train journey, the back of an envelope, a desire to stop reading papers and a slight panic about whether it was even possible to finish my PhD in three years. Time will tell - but now I have some real motivation to stick to this plan - it shows it may even be possible! Here's hoping I stick to it...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Abstract of my research to date - submitted to the London Hopper Colloquium in May 2009

Evaluating Computational Creativity: Excuse me, Computer, How Creative Are You?

Anna Jordanous

DPhil researcher
Music Informatics Research Centre / Creative Systems Lab
Department of Informatics
University of Sussex


Creativity is a highly subjective concept; people have an intuitive understanding of what creativity is, but may struggle to capture what the word ‘creative’ means in a formal definition. This poses problems should one want to describe how creative something is, or compare it against another item in terms of the creativity being demonstrated. Such descriptions and comparisons are vitally useful both for reflections on previous creative work, and comparison of progress in creative-led practice. In particular, when looking at examples of computational creative systems, how can one machine-produced artefact be compared against others? Or against human-produced artefacts? To measure creativity I use several related aspects of creativity, such as novelty, usefulness, fluency of ideas etc., which are more tightly defined and therefore easier to evaluate (either by assessing people’s opinions or by using quantifiable tests). My research offers a set of tools to measure creativity from a variety of viewpoints: from statistical tests of how unique a creative piece of work is in a given domain, to social opinions on the significance and usefulness of that piece of work. These tools form a methodology for a standardised evaluation of creativity across many domains, for comparison and reflection.

Research hypothesis

A first attempt at defining the exact hypothesis/hypotheses I will be testing in my work. Any comments welcome!

  • Creativity is something which can be measured and evaluated along a continuous and open-ended scale.
  • Two or more items can be compared against each other on how creative they are,
  • Crucially, creativity is multi-dimensional, involving several constituent factors or parts, considered in combination.
  • Creativity can definitionally be broken down into a comprehensive set of factors that are more tightly defined and less subjective than creativity itself.
  • We can use this set of factors to measure creativity, by assessing to what extent each factor is present. Combining these results is a sufficient way of measuring how creative an item is and gives an equivalent assessment to that obtained by having humans carry out evaluation of creativity in the same items.
  • Hence... One can assess the level of creativity present in an item or system, by measuring the system using a set of criteria which together contribute to a definition of creativity.
This set of factors I keep referring to is a work in progress... in its current raw form it includes (in no particular order):
  1. Novelty
  2. Generation of things
  3. Process/Methodology
  4. Generating something greater than the sum of its parts
  5. Going from known to unknown
  6. Unexpected
  7. Usefulness
  8. Experimentation/divergence
  9. Evolution of ideas
  10. aesthetics
  11. non-linear progress
  12. Multi-dimensional
  13. grounded in knowledge
  14. abstract thinking
  15. intuition
  16. vision
  17. flexibility/adaptability
  18. intelligence
  19. intention
  20. environmental/social constraints
  21. self-belief/tenacity
  22. promotion (personal and by others)
  23. fluency of ideas
  24. judgement
  25. imagination

Monday, 30 March 2009

Creativity and Cognition conference 2009, Berkeley, California

I've been really thinking about going to this conference, the Creativity and Cognition conference in California. It looks really interesting and the proceedings of the previous conferences have had a lot of useful things in for me. So I'm preparing a paper on the recent developments I've made in my research, namely devising a framework for evaluating creativity from many different perspectives. There's a graduate symposium which looks quite interesting, and I think it might be more appropriate for me at the moment given that I'm still in the middle of active work rather than trying to report finished work.

I need to submit:
  • A summary page (basically an abstract and a biography),
  • Four pages describing the work I am currently doing, including what I would get from participating in this graduate symposium.
  • Also I need to send in "a letter of recommendation from a faculty member indicating their approval that the work has reached the appropriate level of maturity for presentation in this venue. " Shouldn't be too hard to get that - either Nick or Chris, my two supervisors, would be happy to provide that, I'm sure.
Looks like the research proposals and summaries I've just been writing should come in very handy indeed... :) Suddenly I feel better about all these applications.

Money is going to be a real issue - there might be funding for this if I get accepted to the graduate symposium, and additionally I might be able to get a student travel award again from the AISB which would be really great - but I have to work on the basis that I don't get any funding and then anything else will be a bonus.

This might mean that I don't get to go to ESCOM (even though I've had two posters accepted) as I really don't think I can afford both. Shame, as the ESCOM conference looks fascinating, with some amazing keynote speakers, but I'll just have to work on what I can afford.

Friday, 27 March 2009

FundingApplications = HowToDescribeYourResearchInAMillionDifferentWays() + BeggingForMoney()

Just finished the last of the funding applications I'm going to make for now.

Lets get the pessimistic moaning out of the way - already had one rejected (the Sir Richard Stapley trust: mine wasn't one of the first 350 applications received so they don't consider it). Plus AHRC funding is looking highly unlikely, given that my degree is in Music Informatics, and that neither Music nor Informatics get a mention on the list of departments being funded by AHRC...

Grumbling over. I've still made some good (I hope) applications to the British Federation of Women Graduates, Funds for Women Graduates, Hilda Martindale Trust, Reid Trust and the Google scholarship. Plus I will now be considered again by the department for their EPSRC funding.

The whole process has made me write up my research project in so many different ways, from a variety of perspectives, which has really helped me firm up what I'm doing and why its good. One form has even resulted in me drawing up a tentative abstract for my thesis, which could be very useful preparation.

I've had some amazing support, not just from the four academics who ended up giving me references but also from some friends who offered some great advice. By the way, thanks Leon for the offer of help with reading my funding applications - as it turns out, I turn into a right grumpy thing when I'm writing these proposals, so didn't want to inflict that on you - maybe its something to do with the fact that I'm compensating for having to be so positive about my work and myself in the proposals!

So lets leave all these funding problems behind for a short while - I can now throw myself into the good stuff (the research, believe it or not!) without the guilty feelings that I should be sorting out money worries instead.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

workshop - writing up your DPhil or PhD thesis

My officemate persuaded me to go to this workshop, as we are both starting to think about the reality of the looming PhD thesis write up. This was the experiences of a post-doc researcher, on her writing up stage of her doctoral research.
Well worth going to this, even though we are both in our second year - I think that is the ideal time to go to a workshop like this as there is enough time to plan and consider, with the luxury of time still. Here's a summary of what was mentioned in the workshop, along with extra thoughts I had during the workshop.

General observations / motivation
  • Keep the end goal in mind
  • Whole process of writing up can maybe take 3 or 4 months or more, but if you do little bits as you go then it gets easier, and you can break it down a bit.
  • Enjoy the process of becoming an expert in your field!
  • Track progress to keep motivated, remember the bigger picture. Zoe suggested keeping a chart of progress on your desk as a visual representation of progress.
Planning and Organising the write-up
  • Always keep in mind the thread of your thesis, what story are you telling? Keep this prominent throughout.
  • Keep on looking for gaps in the story and aim for continuity
  • Keep records of what you do so you don't have to redo that work later
  • A useful software for graphs might be CollidaGraph (for mac) or Prism (for PC) (although Matlab seems pretty ok for my stuff so far)
  • Make a timetable, especially by working backwards from a deadline to make the time left seem more real. Factor in LOTS of extra time like printing time, admin, time for supervisors to give feedback, plus 'timeout' time in between reviews
  • For my two supervisors, is it worth giving them a chapter at a time or the thesis all in one go - closer to the time, double check what they prefer
  • Regular meetings with supervisors help to keep you on track, especially if you give them a piece of work each time and ask them to return the last piece of work at the same time?
  • Examiners - who do I want (I have some ideas for external examiners, not a clue for internal examiners)
  • Introduction chapter should be an introduction to this thesis, rather than a literature review, for example. Say what you're writing about, what's the story you're telling, your motivation for this study and summarise what's in the thesis.
  • Latex/Bibtex looks to be likely to save a LOT of hassle with formatting etc, especially if I can find a template for Sussex DPhil theses, which someone said might exist... (I've just spent a bit of time sorting out papers I've saved on my computer, and sorting out/updating a references bibtex page for these - at the time it felt like procrastination but actually now I think I'll find papers a lot easier)
  • Get started with whatever chapter seems easiest. Break everything down into chunks
  • The thesis isn't a descriptive account of the last three years' work, its a coherent description of a fully mature research project
  • Save each chapter separately with an annotation of date for that version and probably the filename its stored under as well - as a footer for each page, perhaps?
  • Check university formatting rules (so that template for latex would be amazing, if it exists?)
  • Before the first draft, make a VERY detailed chapter plan. Break it down into chunks that are clearly defined in scope. Max 3 levels of subheadings was recommended.
  • Concentrate the initial effort on thesis structure rather than on the detail in the text of the first draft - as the text is likely to be revised considerably in later drafts. Just write a draft and get it onto paper
  • Writing style: Keep It Simple Stupid! Be concise and don't talk a load of circular woffle. Don't try to sound clever... Active voice is often better than passive voice.
  • For a bit of variety in the writing, vary the length of the sentences (particularly if this tends to be quite uniform).
  • How can I use pictures/graphs/tables/other visuals most effectively? The whole 'picture paints a thousand words' thing comes into mind here...
  • Pay attention to little details - it suggests the work being described has been approached in a similar vein
  • Lengthwise - about 200 pages is a ballpark figure. Decent chunk of words (maybe 10,000) for the introduction, similar for the discussion (maybe 7000)
  • Make sure each part fits together as a story, refer between sections as necessary (without making the reader flit back and forth constantly
  • Worth talking to previous DPhil students about the process - not well documented
  • At least 2 months before submission, hand an 'intention to submit' form in with an abstract (to allow the university to contact potential examiners and sort out any difficulties)
  • Useful contact at Sussex House: Penny King
  • Initially hand in 3 soft bound copies and make a further copy for yourself for the viva.
  • Then if the viva is successful, after corrections, hard bound copies get done.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

statistics in corpus linguistics - Sandra's discussion - and how it relates to my work

Nice clear article on Sandra's blog here, spelling out exactly how she's using statistics in her research on how word usage in bilingual people is influenced by their native language. She defines quite a few core statistical terms in a way that is easy to understand.
Statistical testing is likely to form one or more of my evaluative tests for creativity, as I will want to measure novelty and variance of the new piece of work, both within itself and compared to other comparable works.
This also links in to a previous post of Sandra's on variability and homogeneity assessment between corpora and inside an individual corpus of documents. Where she uses 2 corpora: essays written by native speakers of English and then native speakesr of French, I could be using corpora of pieces of a specific musical genre?
Summary of Sandra's post and how the content relates to my research
So as I understand it, you can use t tests to measure the difference between what you expect to see (based on what you have in the existing corpus) and what you actually see. I wonder what criteria is best for measuring this (probably more than one) - a topic for a later post I think!
T tests are most effective with a small corpus (less than 30 items). They also rely on the assumption that the data is normally distributed and representative of the source population (i.e. in my case, that musical genre). [NB How could I check this, in real terms?]
Z scores can be useful for corpora of a larger sample size than 30 (still assuming the data in the corpus is normally distributed). A z score represents the number of standard deviations a sample piece is away from the mean of the corpus (in other words, how different one piece is from the standard set by the corpus, in comparison to other pieces also being tested).
Taking away the assumption that the data is normally distributed and representative of the larger population (that specific musical genre), chi-squared tests come into play. X2 tests take two sets of frequencies/variables and measure how much these two sets vary from each other. So for example taking pitch distribution (how many times does e.g. middle C appear in pieces from a specified genre) - I could use X2 to measure how statistically different two sets of pieces are from each other on the basis of how notes are used.
I'm sure I'll return to this discussion when I get a bit more into the statistical testing, and how to establish significant results to measure creativity statistically.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Now I stop and think about marking...

In the last week or so I have worked out that I have marked assignments or presentations from close to 200 students. When I stop and think about it, that seems slightly worrying to me - is it right that I, as a doctoral student, have influence on so many people's degrees?

In my undergraduate degree I got a 2.1. It was a high 2.1 but a 2.1 nonetheless. I've found during my later academic pursuits that sometimes I have been restricted by not having achieved a first during my time at undergraduate level. Realising now how much marking and extra tutoring is taken on by postgraduate students, I really hope that my decisions to give someone 68 rather than 71 don't have such consequences?

Just to clarify, I don't think like that when I'm actually marking; I don't think you can afford to otherwise allocating each grade would be an incredibly long process...

On reflection of my undergraduate times, I think maybe I did deserve that 2.1 - I could definitely have applied myself better to my work, especially when I didn't engage with a particular subject so much and wasn't so interested in it (computer architecture springs to mind!) If I'd carried on study straight after finishing undergraduate, I wouldn't have the motivation and drive that I have now, so its funny how it all works out. And that 2.1 does help push me when I'm flagging a bit - just a bit more effort then and I could have done better, to get a first? Definitely helped me in my masters - just a bit more effort...!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

A way past the deadlock...

Finally some good feeling of progress and movement in my PhD!

Just had a meeting with my supervisor where I showed him some ideas I had about exactly what I want my PhD thesis to cover. This set of ideas is the result of some brainstorming I did on the scope of my PhD, focussing on evaluation of creativity.

It's the first time for a while that I've felt like I really knew what I was talking about and could justify and expand upon what I was proposing, when I was being questioned, and also see the boundaries of what my project is going to cover. While I think I've got a lot of work ahead of me..., these are exciting times!

Monday, 2 March 2009

tidy up of funding applications

Since I last listed all my funding options, lots have been eliminated or done, so lets update my list and get it into a date order so its easier to see what deadlines I'm about to miss...

Listed as: Name of award/funder, Deadline, How much I can ask for, What they're after

  • AHRC: DEADLINE: 10/3/09? I'm sort of eligible to apply (more so if I wasn't in informatics) Full funding, fees and living. Need to submit a 500 word max research proposal, three references and transcripts.
  • British Federation of Women's Graduates - BFWG Scholarships DEADLINE 27/3/09. 2,500-6000 pounds. For final year female PG students.
  • FFWG Charitable Foundation Grants DEADLINE 31/3/09. ??? pounds. For final year female PG students.
  • Richard Stapley Trust: DEADLINE: 31/03/09. 300-1000 pounds per year. Mature PG students.
  • Microsoft European PhD Scholarship Programme - very interesting that the first page on their main research site is for their Songsmith project... a good omen maybe? They are looking to fund people who work at the 'intersection of computing and the sciences including biology, chemistry and physics'. Closing date april according to Grants register but according to the microsoft site, applications don't even open till march - I'll keep checking..
  • Reid trust for the higher education of women - Deadline 31/5/09 Up to 1000 pounds grant. To promote the education of women in the UK. Open to women educated in the UK with appropriate qualifications who wish to undertake further training or research. - 1 in 5 chance of success. Administered by a small voluntary committee. No online presence except this PDF.
  • Lindbergh Grants - Deadline: 2nd Thursday in June. Maximum of $10580. Intended for research projects that imporve the quality of life through balance between nature and technology. Aimed at research and education rather than tuition

  • ESRC (the open competition) DEADLINE: Internal deadline - March. Full funding. The only research council I've looked at that is actively encouraging interdisciplinary work but as luck would have it, I'm really not sure whether I'm eligible for this, given that Informatics isn't mentioned on the ESRC page at Sussex.
  • SEMPRE: Arnold Bentley New Initiatives fund deadline 1st May (max about £500) for interdisciplinary music psychology projects
  • SEMPRE: Conference awards for attending one of SEMPRE's supported conferences - it has to be said that the online list of conferences supported by Sempre is not the most extensive at present... :(
  • Intellectual Property Office Bursary scheme - for women who have had previous arts experience and who then go on to do a science/engineering course - THIS PAGE SEEMS TO HAVE VANISHED??
  • The Hinrichsen Foundation (L E Adamson: hinrichsen.foundation@editionpeters.com. The Hinrichsen Foundation Awards, The Hinrichsen Foundation, PO Box 309, KT22 2AT) To promote the written areas of music - contemporary music composition, performance and research. UK applicants given preference. Not taking applications till at least June due to financial problems. NB: "The Trustees are not as a general rule prepared to finance degree courses. Their aim is to encourage composition and research, but not to finance the acquisition of basic skills in these subjects."
  • Leverhulme Trust - can I apply as a person pursuing a research project? Prob not...

  • Departmental Funding: Full funding. ~Need to hand in form.~
  • Google Anita Borg Scholarship: 5000EUR/1000EUR
  • Hilda Martindale Educational Trust - Up to 1000 pounds. They are interested in supporting women who aren't eligible for grants from research councils (which I can definitely put a case for, seeing how my research really doesn't neatly fit into research council boundaries).

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

To do list for the rest of this week

PhD related:
  • Read through the sections on algorithmic composition again in the Roads book, to follow up on the work I've been doing
  • Go back to the Graeme Ritchie paper on evaluating creativity using quantitative methods (+ related papers such as the one by Pease et al from an earlier conference)
  • Do a search on papers discussing evaluation in creativity
  • Do a brain storm on what the boundaries of my PhD are
  • Read relevant sections in the following books, then RETURN them: Computers and Creativity, Tree of Knowledge
  • Go through Nick's chapter(s) again and actually make some notes this time
  • Do a brain storm on the story-telling project and what has come out of it
  • Read one cheeky little sound synthesis article, just to keep this fresh in my mind as I seem to be making progress here :)
Funding related:
  • Fill out and send off Hilda Martindale fund form
  • Print out forms for Richard Stapley Fund and FfWG
  • Get BFWG form and any other app forms I still need to get
  • Update blog with current applications list
Non-PhD related:
  • MARKING :( logic programming, advanced tech communications, careers development courses
  • Fill out presentation marks for program design
  • RC work
  • Arrange flute lesson for potential new pupil - DONE while I'm writing this! :)

Times they are a changin...

It's been a busy few days or so in the land of Anna's PhD.

I've been really worrying about how I'm half way through my study in terms of time and seem to have done barely nothing towards a thesis. After a meeting with my supervisor yesterday which pretty much highlighted that, at first I came away very disheartened with everything and locked myself in the library for a bit. But today after a good gig last night and seeing friends, I feel so much more positive.

I've done some major clearing up things since then:
  • Cleared my shelf of most of the library books which I 'perhaps maybe' might get round to reading... what's the point in holding onto books when I don't feel like I've got enough time or brain cells to get through the essential reading?
  • Called a halt to one of the projects I'm working on, one which relates GOFAI story generation to music generation - I am hitting so many obstacles with it and it's not central enough to my PhD to warrant any more attention. I am going to write up the work I've done and the conclusions I've drawn from doing this work, both as an exercise in academic writing and to document my work so it's not wasted. If there were no dead ends in research then I guess it wouldn't be as much fun?
  • Been very honest about exactly what I do and don't want to achieve in my PhD research (why cram a whole lifetime's worth of research into one degree and eventually fail because of the enormity of it all?)
  • Done some serious thinking about what I want my thesis to contribute - gonna do a bit more brainstorming on this and open my mind up but I want to focus it much more on the thorny problem of evaluating the presence and amount of creativity being demonstrated by a selection of 'creative' computational systems.
Obviously it's really time to get some serious work done now, so I'll finish writing this and clear some things off my to do list. Speaking of which...

Friday, 20 February 2009

A tiny glimmer of funding hope... (TINY TINY TINY)

My second supervisor, Chris Thornton, is putting together a bid for funding for a project into the abstract nature of creativity, looking at the cognitive aspects - what happens (at a high-level, mechanically) when we are creative. If it's successful, I get employed on that - hence some funding! We've just heard that the bid he submitted has been accepted onto a next stage, meaning that we get to 'officially' apply (as opposed to just registering interest, I think, which was the previous stage).

It's so demoralising not having funding, it makes you feel like the whole process of your PhD is just not recognised as a worthwhile thing to do. I think it's worthwhile, or I wouldn't be investing my time and money into it. But I spend so much time seeking out recognition and investment for this work (and doing other work like teaching to get money to live on) when I could just be concentrating on the PhD itself.

In a way I'm very jealous of those who do have funding, but I guess this way I really seek out the value of what I'm doing, which can only be helpful in the long term. Plus I have now got so much experience in tutoring and lecturing, and have become a lot more efficient in managing my time. So there are benefits to everything, I suppose it's just a case of looking for the 'silver lining' around the cloud.

Talking of becoming more efficient with my time, BACK TO THE WORK...>!?!?

How real life invades the best laid plans...

Of course I didn't do everything on my list of things-to-do (from my previous posts). That is what such overly ambitious lists are designed for.

Perhaps this is why I constantly feel like I'm falling behind with my work, because I plan to do too much and then never accomplish it? Or, maybe that's not the case - I just wrote that last sentence and disagreed with it in my head almost straightaway. I know that I plan ridiculous amounts of work, but I guess I see that as more of a way to prompt myself to do more with my time - there is never an end to the to-do list (if there was then how boring would life become!)

What I need to focus on is less procrastination time, more actual work. I really hope this blog isn't linked to procrastination time - currently it isn't but I guess it's another potential distraction.

The most effective thing for me is to plan my time hour by hour, I find - that way I don't drift into no-man's land timewise.

This week is a bit crazy (as always - I love my life!) I'm doing a musical all week. So we're meeting at 5pm in town. With my bus going once an hour, that means I need to leave campus at 4pm. so between 11.40 and 3.40, that gives me 4 hours of work. And I need to:
  • sort out funding deadlines.
  • read Nick's chapters (got really into one of them then forgot it all)
  • read Seda's chapter for her English - this is my housemate who is doing a PhD in theatre studies, she wants a native speaker to look over her language use. I can't possibly imagine doing a PhD in another language other than my native language, I'm in awe of her for this.
  • Have a skim read of a linguistics book, to get a bit of background on some topics there.
  • Work out a basic application text for the seminar series in interdisciplinary music research that we want to set up in Brighton
I'll print this out, and assign times for it. Then stick to it!!! (possibly)

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The rest of this week's work

PhD related:
  • Fix the bug I've got in my EmergingVoices music program
  • Read one more paper (or just abstracts) and BibTex it
  • Apply for workshop with AHRC for applying for a student led initiative fund
  • Go through all sources of funding and find out deadlines, update my blog posts with deadlines
Non-PhD related
  • Marking for the logic course
  • Learn charts for a gig on Saturday night
  • work for rc
  • Give Leon a flute lesson :)

Follow up on the week's plan of work I posted a week and a half ago...

Lets see... as of a week and a half later:

* Revive the emergence Java program I wrote at the end of last term - YES
* Add the results of my Music Spin survey into my LISP program and get some music out of it? (probably that won't happen this week...) - NOPE - GOT STUCK
* Do a little reading into cognitive linguistics-type content - particularly to skim through the rest of the Fauconnier and Turner book and to learn about Image schemas - ISH - WENT BACK TO BASICS A BIT ON THIS
* Clear 5 papers from my to-read pile (prob just reading abstracts and updating my Bibtex notes for future) - HAHA NO! JUST 2 PAPERS
* Have a quick read through the chapter of the book my supervisor is writing, see what I think - HAVE STARTED THIS BUT NOT DONE MUCH
* Read Chris's paper (Chris is who I share an office with) - probably too late now to give him feedback on what he's written before the deadline but still would be good to read it - NOPE SORRY CHRIS
* Read 2 articles from the Synth Secrets series - READ ONE LAST WEEK, JUST FINISHED READING ONE NOW
* A bit of Cope reading? - NOPE

Also, non-DPhil related:

* Talk with Chris about the seminars we want to set up - YES - THIS COULD BE QUITE EXCITING... WORKING ON THIS IDEA NOW
* CDEC marking - DONE (PHEW)
* Go through and get deadlines for the funding opportunities I've identified (or send off for application forms if necessary) - DAMN REALLY SHOULD DO THIS SOON. RIGHT. GONNA DO IT TOMORROW AFTER I FINISH THE MARKING I'VE GOT TO DO FOR THE LOGIC COURSE

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

random wanderings in research

I'm not sure I still agree with the point I made in the last post, about how following up random leads is probably just a waste of time.

If research always followed a directed, carefully planned route without any deviations (or wild goose chases) then it could almost be automated - and then what would the point be in having researchers in the first place?

For example, with Owen Holland's talk yesterday, the vast majority of actual implementation seems to have been done by his phd students and research assistants (that was the impression I got from how he presents it, anyway) But without his original ideas and visions, the whole project wouldn't ever have happened.

Perhaps my problem really is that I never seem to follow a directed, carefully planned route in my work, and that I'm struggling to knuckle down to the real implementation work once I've finished devising what I'm going to do (but don't have anyone employed to do that work for me!)

So I'll make sure I make time for the random deviations... but make it the minority of time rather than the majority it seems to take at present.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

busy day or not busy day; that is the question

So today I:
  • taught for an hour;
  • did some non-phd related work (prep and rc) (yes I know that means nothing to anyone except me);
  • faffed for a bit and procrastinated; tried and failed to understand what conceptual blending is (although Sandra might yet again be able to come to my aid with some slides she's done to help her understand it herself);
  • swopped my conceptual blending book for a much lighter and easier-to-read introduction to cognitive linguistics (although I haven't opened it yet)
  • went to a COGS seminar given by Owen Holland (Essex) about conscious robots with internal models that are behaviour-based (not convinced, despite Owen Holland's very entertaining presentation style - seems like he and his team have pretty much just managed to match what he was criticising - a lot of cognising for very little actual result. But I'm quite sympathetic to the concept of using abstractions as he was talking about - I don't _need_to see robots knocking over barriers and he did come up with some fascinating ideas about different levels of abstraction working together and that being some indicator of consciousness)
  • printed out (but didn't read) one of the sound synthesis articles
I do seem to have this real problem of either procrastinating, or getting diverted from the real work in hand by some little side idea of mine. Even though I've got two serious programs I'm working on, all I managed to do on those today was to open the Lisp IDE that I use to write one of the programs in. That's fairly pathetic!

As an example, the cognitive linguistics reading I was doing today was following up on a vague theory I've got: taking principles used in cognitive linguistics and making them more abstract so they apply to music, and in theory, a more general level of human creativity (given my very limited knowledge of cognitive linguistics and an interest in the shared processes between language and music creation).

Really I'm stumbling around in the dark a little with this. Instead I should be concentrating on the programs I've been looking forward to writing, or reading some of the more relevant literature surrounding the work that I'm supposed to be focussing on. But I can't let this little niggling interest go just yet.

What I am going to do though, is to skim read the intro-to-cognitive-linguistics book as quickly as I can (literally I don't want to take more than a few hours), then I plan to go to the lectures given on Cognitive Linguistics, so that I can get my overview from there rather than struggling through all the reading in something that might just be a wild goose chase.

There, so at least I'm being honest with what I'm doing in a day and facing up to what I need to do differently... this blog is turning out to be pretty useful for me in getting me more focussed and efficient in my work. Pretty tedious as blogs go, but I don't care - it's my blog and I'll use it best as I can.

But now my head hurts from thinking about robots that are conscious, modelling the world at multiple levels, ignoring the 'binding problem' (how do we go from the eye receiving lightwaves to seeing objects, with properties, that match concepts in our head), acknowledging ambiguity in human systems as we try to model them... enough for one day. Hopefully my brain cells will be more productively engaged tomorrow.

Plans for this week's work

After the unexpected but exciting 'snow day' off yesterday, I now have 4 days ahead officially (and 2 unofficially) to plan work for. If I actually put this plan somewhere public rather than hiding it on the whiteboard behind my desk I might actually stick to it...! So this week I want to:

  • Revive the emergence Java program I wrote at the end of last term
  • Add the results of my Music Spin survey into my LISP program and get some music out of it? (probably that won't happen this week...)
  • Do a little reading into cognitive linguistics-type content - particularly to skim through the rest of the Fauconnier and Turner book and to learn about Image schemas
  • Clear 5 papers from my to-read pile (prob just reading abstracts and updating my Bibtex notes for future)
  • Have a quick read through the chapter of the book my supervisor is writing, see what I think
  • Read Chris's paper (Chris is who I share an office with) - probably too late now to give him feedback on what he's written before the deadline but still would be good to read it
  • Read 2 articles from the Synth Secrets series
  • A bit of Cope reading?

Also, non-DPhil related:

  • Talk with Chris about the seminars we want to set up
  • approach more people about setting up communication across departments (that reminds me, should reply to Stefan's email!)
  • CDEC marking
  • work for rc
  • Go through and get deadlines for the funding opportunities I've identified (or send off for application forms if necessary)

Phew that should keep me busy. Lets see if putting this online helps me achieve more. I'll print this post off now and stick it up by my desk.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

funding applications old and new - part 2

Back to my friend the Grants Register...

  • Hilda Martindale Educational Trust - To help women of the British Isles with the cost of vocational training for any profession or career likely to be of use or value to the community. Contact Miss J L Hurn, Secretary to the Trustees, or email francesca.chiarelli@rhul.ac.uk. Can apply for up to 1000 pounds. They are interested in supporting women who aren't eligible for grants from research councils (which I can definitely put a case for, seeing how my research really doesn't neatly fit into research council boundaries). March 1st deadline. Have asked for an application form
  • Intellectual Property Office Bursary scheme - for women who have had previous arts experience and who then go on to do a science/engineering course - THIS PAGE SEEMS TO HAVE VANISHED??
  • Carnegie Scholarships - to support PG research for anyone possessing a 1st Class Hons degree from a Scottish university - does my masters count? Full scholarship. March 15 deadline. + other trusts as well - NOT ELIGIBLE :(
  • Lindbergh Grants - Intended for research projects that imporve the quality of life through balance between nature and technology. Maximum of $10580. Aimed at research and education rather than tuition, Deadline: 2nd Thursday in June
  • To add to the BFWG links: FFWG / Crosby Hall Association (British Federation Crosby Hall fellowship) / IFUW - BOTH CHECKED (SEE PART 1 POST)
  • The Hinrichsen Foundation (L E Adamson: hinrichsen.foundation@editionpeters.com. The Hinrichsen Foundation Awards, The Hinrichsen Foundation, PO Box 309, KT22 2AT) To promote the written areas of music - contemporary music composition, performance and research. UK applicants given preference. Not sure of Deadline - have enquired. NB: "The Trustees are not as a general rule prepared to finance degree courses. Their aim is to encourage composition and research, but not to finance the acquisition of basic skills in these subjects."
  • Microsoft European PhD Scholarship Programme - very interesting that the first page on their main research site is for their Songsmith project... a good omen maybe? They are looking to fund people who work at the 'intersection of computing and the sciences including biology, chemistry and physics'. Closing date april according to Grants register but according to the microsoft site, applications don't even open till march - I'll keep checking..
Got some nice links from another site as well: www.ukcosa.org.uk/ or www.guidestar.org.uk or www.dsc.org.uk or www.scholarship-search.org.uk or www.funderfinder.org.uk or www.trustfunding.org.uk

(Some of these sites I think I've seen already)

Well I think I've completely exhausted the Grants Register now - and myself! Time to start updating this blog entry with deadline dates and narrowing down who it is worth applying to - lets be brave this year and just really go for it. I've got some great stuff that I'm doing, it's worth funding, lets just see who's lucky enough to be the organisation funding my work.. :)

blog progress

Well as a result of one of my friends (the lovely Sandra) finding my blog and reading about exactly what I'm interested in, we've come across something that could be quite helpful to my research - image schemas. I'd never heard of them until Sandra mentioned them but from what she says, they're definitely worth further investigation. Sandra, I'm coming over to your office now...!!

Sound synthesis articles

As part of some second marking work I was doing for a music technology course, I stumbled across a great set of articles from Sound on Sound, about how sound synthesis works (from the very very basics, onwards)

Having looked through them quickly, I think I'm going to set aside some time to go through these articles properly and make sure my knowledge on this is up to scratch. I guess it's a little off-topic in terms of creativity, but I'm finding that some serious gaps in my knowledge here are causing a bit of a barrier in terms of understanding some of my reading. So this seems like a more successful way to try and plug the gaps rather than ploughing through the massive volume by Curtis Roads, say, on computer music...

Monday, 26 January 2009

Application 1. - done!

So today I finished my application for the Google Anita Borg memorial scholarship, and have submitted it. Fingers crossed... if selected then I get to see Google HQ and possibly have the chance for a 5000 euro scholarship grant.
Two things I've noticed:
  1. It's amazing how people will go out of their way to help another person, even when there seems to be no benefit for themselves (apart from feeling good about helping other people or maybe having the favour repaid at a future time). With my application, four other people have read draft copies of the application text and commented on it, with no expectation of any return for themselves. I'm so grateful to them - Katy, Unaizah, Nick and Geraldine - thank you!
  2. I'm finding that writing applications for grants, scholarships etc, where you really have to sell yourself, is very hard when you are writing to some faceless application panel. However, if I imagine I'm writing to a colleague, or supervisor of some kind, suddenly the process gets a lot easier. I still need to work more on really putting into words what I have to offer in these applications - I guess this is a personal thing (and partly a British cultural thing), not wanting to show off, etc. But doing these types of applications are turning out to be very good for me!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Workshop - Completing the Circle: Incorporating Evaluation in Creative work - part 2

I wanted to blog my notes on each paper from the 'Completing the Circle' Landsdown Symposium, as an online record I can access (rather than paper notes I will no doubt lose or scrunch up by mistake). Seems like a useful way to reflect on the presentations as well, a couple of days later.

Chair's Welcome

Stephen Boyd Davis raised a few interesting questions when introducing the symposium:

  • Is it necessary to evaluate creative work or does the work stand on its own without being experienced by people? Most people at the workshop advocated that some evaluation was necessary as part of the artistic process, mentioning a ?Dewey? quote that I have totally forgotten to reference in my notes. It would have been good to hear a more rounded discussion of this though.
  • Who should evaluate the work - the creator? a specific evaluator? a user? This was most directly addressed byErnest Edmonds, with most other presenters only hinting at this.

Value of HCI evaluation in preserving new media art (Piotr Adamczyk)

Unfortunately the angle this was presented from was so off-topic for me that I didn't find much to help my own work in this talk. Adamczyk's main focus is in preservation and recording of new media art (I believe he works for a museum?). He discussed what control and contribution the audience have over a piece of art, and how this effects evaluation and archiving. A final point Adamczyk made was intriguing: Would generalised evaluation methods "smooth out the rough edges" of creative work? And if so, the "inspections made at these rough edges" might be more informative than investigating the generalisms drawn by such evaluation methods. Fascinating point (maybe I got more from this talk than I first realised).

Evaluating Cause and Effect in User Experience (Mark Springett, Middlesex)

Springett used a case study of examples of user experience of e-banking web design - a slightly different type of visual creativity that added some variety to the papers. He talked about different "instruments for evaluation": actual physical tracking (such as eye tracking or galvanic skin response), asking for summative feedback, conducting probes into causality (direct and indirect) and critiquing user reactions. 

Springett mentioned the triangulation approach to evaluation (evaluating from many different angles) which was also taken up by Michael Hohl later on. I've come across triangulation before in terms of academic training, as Richard Cox and I have discussed it during the work I did for him on the Research Methods course at Sussex. Seems an intuitively good way to progress, as long as each 'point in the triangle' is concretely connected to the other points, to get an overall picture.

[N.B. Could really have done with a coffee break at this point - four presentations in one 2 hour session - and then three presentations over 2 hours 15 after lunch - meant my brain was tiring towards the end of the day]

[At this point in the workshop I was wondering: are we considering the creative work, as I had hoped, or the experience of the audience for that creative work, which is useful but only part of the picture to me. Up till this point it was very much the latter perspective which was prevalent; this continued throughout the day.]

Vision and Reality: Relativity in Art (Robin Hawes, University College Falmouth)

Incorporating psychology, physiology and philosophy. Great ideas in this presentation, that we should be careful when assuming everyone sees the same thing when seeing a piece of art, and evaluating that art accordingly - influences such as individual saccadic patterns when surveying the artwork will mean that different people have different views of the same work. Ideally I would have liked to see this idea pitched at a slightly higher academic level, with more evidence like the eye-tracking experiment for saccades (rapid surveying eye movements when taking in a larger image) to back up what he was saying. Having said that, the paper may be worth a further read to see if Hawes extends what he was saying in the presentation.

Using Grounded Theory to Develop a Model of Interactive Art (Michael Hohl)

I may have written the title down slightly incorrectly here; but the Grounded Theory explanation was the most interesting part of this talk for me. Grounded theory is a technique that seems intuitive but was officially described by Strauss in the sixties, as a social science tool for qualitative evaluation. Hohl presented participants with a piece of interactive art and interviewed them after they had finished interacting with the artwork. The process of going from verbose interviews with no pre-conceived hypothesis to theoretical abstractions was by Grounded Theory. 

As I understand it, there are four stages:

  1. Open coding - tagging the transcriptions with very general themes
  2. Axial coding - Concepts and categories are defined
  3. Selective coding - Refining the concepts
  4. Expressing the theory

I wish I'd known about this before doing a paper based on interviews... but as it turns out this process is pretty much what I did anyway, through seeing other people do research with interviews. Seems quite common sense as well.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing? Eyetracking evaluation of dynamic scenes (Group from Leeds Metropolitan/London Metropolitan)

Tracing the attentional flow of film viewers seeing what they pay attention to. Some very impressive visualisations of this attentional flow which were done in Max/MSP using the Jitter plug-in.

The researchers performed two rounds of statistics during this project. The second round was guided by repeated input from a statistician. I didn't catch much of the exact statistical testing they were doing but I think this would be worth reading about in their paper.

Using the Sensual Evaluation Instrument (Laaksolahti, Isbister, Hook)

Even though this was the talk that had been pointed out to me by two people, I have to admit I was flagging in concentration at this point. All I picked up was that the sensual evaluation instrument seemed to be made up of several small objects of different types of shapes (some smooth, some spiky, etc) that participants used to evaluate how they felt about some object of evaluation. So rather than expressing their thoughts in words, they were asked to express their thoughts via these shaped objects. Rather a nice idea to get around the problem of expressing sub-language concepts in words, but I guess this approach adds a layer of ambiguity in the interpretation - what does it mean if e.g. a person chooses the spiky object to express their thoughts about some piece? You then have to find words to express and interpret this, surely? Otherwise this research is quite limited in the value you can extract for more general evaluation (everything can't be described by shapes! e.g. for papers etc you couldn't use the shapes to describe the findings as effectively and clearly as with words?)

The speaker (Laaksolahti) apologised in advance for poor slides and said he'd had little time to prepare due to illness - this gave me quite a negative initial impression before he had even started - even though he seemed to be very pleasant during the talk. 

3 viewpoints on Interactive Art, Evaluation and user experience (Ernest Edmonds, Zafer Bilda, Lizzie Muller, Creativity and Cognition studios, Sydney, Australia)

This talk was the highlight of the day for me, probably due to Edmonds' excellent presentation of the topic matter. I have a lot of notes from this talk!

The three roles of Evaluator (Bilda), Curator (Muller) and Artist (Edmonds) were discussed, by Edmonds in person and by Bilda and Muller through pre-recorded videos. 

  • Evaluator: Concerned with human behaviour and cognition
  • Curator: Concerned with the audience/artwork encounter (I consider this analogous to a provider or enabler type of role, in a more general context)
  • Artist: Concerned with the functioning of the artwork in particular (more generally I would refer to this role as a 'creator' type of role)

Methods of evaluation: direct observation (getting 'here and now' information but perhaps disrupting the interaction between person and artwork) VS post-event recall by commenting on a video (perhaps more accurate but with some time passing between the event itself and description by the person which may affect how well the person remembers interacting with the artwork)

To get people to engage with the artworks, Edmonds discussed three ways of stimulating engagement: having Attractors to get people interested in the artwork, using Sustainers to maintain their interest, and Relaters which - I think - help the person relate this artwork to other interests of theres (not sure about this last one).

Considering aesthetics as part of the evaluation of artwork: aesthetics includes complexity and ambiguity (as a measure of difficulty) not just beauty/pleasantness (this links back to engagement, I should think). 

Evaluation done by this team uses social science software called (I think) Interact to measure interaction over time by making time-stamped observations (Edmonds et al have another paper on this). 

How do you take interactive art evaluation out of the laboratory setting? Sydney have the Beta-Space which is a public area for installations. 

One point which refers back to something that Adamczyk said earlier: Simplification smooths out over-complexity - but this isn't necessarily the right thing to do. 

Some useful references at the end of this talk: 

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Workshop - Completing the Circle: Incorporating Evaluation in Creative work

I went to this workshop symposium yesterday.

I'll write about it in a bit more detail when I have more time - but general impressions were...

  • Got to hear about creative work in a more broad domain than just music
  • Some innovative ideas in how to evaluate creative work
  • One talk in particular by Robin Hawes was quite thought-provoking - he used physiological and psychological arguments to demonstrate that we don't all perceive things the same way, so this should be taken into account when evaluating such perception
  • Ernest Edmonds' talk was entertaining and had lots of interesting and useful content about the study of cognitive creativity both in his labs in Australia and beyond - especially a plug for the Creativity and Cognition conference that is happening this summer in California + a mention of Leonardo transcriptions - collection of 2 page papers
  • Shame that all presenters only considered visual creativity. The concept of creativity using sound seemed to be entirely absent, to the extent that I felt too shy to ask questions about it, even though I am sure there were at least five people in the audience whose main research focus is sound-based creativity (silly me really, should have been braver)
  • Nearly everyone seemed to focus on evaluating the user experience at the end of the artistic/design process, rather than evaluating any other viewpoints, or taking evaluation during the creative process to be used as feedback in the process. Ernest Edmonds was a notable exception here.

Friday, 16 January 2009

funding applications old and new

Starting the ole "let's try to get funding" process again, for the second time. It's just struck me that a blog would be a great place to store a whole list of potential places to apply to, especially so that I can access it from home etc. So here we go. I have the 'Grants Register' bible and an internet browser in front of me and am ready to go...

Last year's applications
  • Richard Stapley Trust: Charity offering 300-1000 pounds per year for mature postgrad students - they seem to take a genuine interest in the students they sponsor, judging from the correspondence I had from them last year when I successfully got a grant from them. Definitely going to apply again. DEADLINE: 31/03/09. Application form requested
  • AHRC: Really not sure about how to apply to this, this year, it seems to have changed again but the university pages on this are out of date. Depending on whether Sussex is a 'BGP' partner of AHRC, I think I either get considered by the university for AHRC funding, or have to apply directly to AHRC. I really need to talk to someone in the know about this - wonder if my supervisor is up to date with the changes? Or Phil Husbands seems to know what's going on with funding usually. (In fact he'd probably be worth chatting to anyway) UPDATE: Sussex has got a BGP grant, but I'm not sure if I'm eligible to apply - frustratingly, perhaps I might be inbetween research council remits yet again. (With all this focus on interdisciplinary research, you'd think the research councils would be more interested in arts/science crossings?!?) I'm chasing this up. Deadline 20/03/09. Need to submit a 500 word max research proposal, three references and transcripts.
  • Wingate Scholarship: I really like the ethos of this charity - encouraging interdisciplinary research. I got through to the final round last year. Must look at the application to see what I could improve on. UPDATE: Damn I missed the deadline. Very careless of me.
  • Departmental Funding: Well, all I can really do with this is make sure the department know I'm applying and maybe go see Phil Husbands about how I can improve my chances. Depends on what money they've got available but after two failed chances I'm really not hopeful the department is willing to support my research; disappointing given that I particularly liked Sussex's approach to interdisciplinary research when I was deciding to come here and thought I'd have more of a chance. Well musn't grumble, that won't get me anywhere! Actually on further looking, there is a GTA application form - I'll fill that in and get that off ASAP. Note to self... I'll go through and double check the other links advertised on the departmental funding page when I'm done with the Grants Register - lets concentrate on the big book for now. No deadline it seems - I'll fill this in now and check with Richard Chambers as to exactly what to do
  • Google Anita Borg Scholarship: deadline 26th January - work in progress!

New potential options:
  • Open University: Now that I'm a tutor for the OU (or will be) I know they have some money for staff to develop their academic knowledge (the Development fund): "Associate lecturers can apply to the Development Fund that may provide financial support for attendance at events such as external conferences and to help support associate lecturers in PhD and masters studies." I'll contact Sue Truby about this for the best person to approach, and in the meantime will find my login information for the OU site, see if there's anything online that isn't on the main site. UPDATE - this has fallen through as the OU for SE england unfortunately didn't get enough applications to run the course I was supposed to be tutoring :(
  • EPSRC and ESRC: I guess the benefits of such an interdisciplinary research is that I should try all the research councils that might be relevant... they can only say no. I think the EPSRC is through the department only but there is something in ESRC that might be worth pursuing (the open competition) (again the site is out of date currently though...) UPDATE: EPSRC - scholarships distributed through universities (as I thought). ESRC is the only research council I've looked at that is actively encouraging interdisciplinary work but as luck would have it, I'm really not sure whether I'm eligible for this, given that Informatics isn't mentioned on the ESRC page at Sussex. Internal deadlines appear to be in March
  • SEMPRE: Arnold Bentley New Initiatives fund for interdisciplinary music psychology projects (max about £500) deadline 1st May, Conference awards for attending one of SEMPRE's supported conferences - it has to be said that the online list of conferences supported by Sempre is not the most extensive at present... :( and the Aubrey Hickman award for graduate students - which is biennal and linked to Sempre's own conference which happened last year, so I doubt this is available this year.
  • British Federation of Women's Graduates - a lot of opportunities for final year postgrad research. Particularly Kathleen Hall fellowship (but I might be from the wrong country..) **BFWG Scholarships** (2,500-6000 pounds), DEADLINE 27/3/09 IFUW international fellowships (promotion of women in scientific and technological careers - I have to be a member of BFWG) Deadlines: late march/early april. UPDATE: This is biannual and doesn't open again till March 2010. Also FFWG Charitable Foundation (DEADLINE 31/3/09) and Emergency (deadline Feb 21st - missed it) grants. The IFUW website is well worth a look as well - there is a Crosby Hall Fellowship which I might have missed the deadline for (september deadline) CFUW/A Vibert Douglas fellowship (stretching the point on evolutionary aspects of my work somewhat!) and the Dorothy Leet grants and Ida Smedly MacLean fellowships - need to find more out about these (again might have missed the september deadline but to know about just in case for next year) UPDATE - looks like just the BFWG scholarship and the FfWG foundation grants here. Need to pay 20 pounds for the BFWG so checking eligibility, plus have requested a FfWG form.
  • Carnegie Grants and Scholarships - as I have got a good degree from a Scottish university. UPDATE- should only apply for this if work is in a Scottish university or will benefit a Scottish university. Hmm... that might be stretching things for me!
  • Gilchrist Educational Trusts - up to 1000 pounds. closing date feb 28th. Need to show that my need for money is unexpected - this would be due to the recent family circumstances so I could consider applying to this. Also they have group grants which may be interesting for the research group in general perhaps?
  • Leverhulme Trust - can I apply as a person pursuing a research project? Prob not...
  • Reid trust for the higher education of women - a grant to promote the education of women in the UK. Open to women educated in the UK with appropriate qualifications who wish to undertake further training or research. Up to 1000 pounds grant. Deadline 31/5/09 - 1 in 5 chance of success. Need to send a SAE for requesting an application form to: Mrs H M Harvey, Honorary treasurer, Reid Trust (f.t.h.e.o.w) 53 Thornton Hill, Exeter, Devon, EX4 4NR. Founded in connection with Bedford College for women. Administered by a small voluntary committee. No online presence except this PDF. Have requested application form.
So that's me half way through the Grants register. A few new leads when I've searched for general funding options, next time I'll look at the more subject specific leads. Also, when searching through the 'Any student, any subject' options, I could only face doing A-L - there are so many options here! So next time I'll also finish that off. Not a terrible way to spend an hour, especially if it leads to some funding (wish me luck). To be continued...