Goldsmiths academic Mick Grierson has recently been honoured with a professorship in the Department of Computing. Here’s what he said…
Goldsmiths’ commitment to interdisciplinarity has made it the perfect place for me to develop as an academic. In the late 1990s, my obsession with experimental film and video led me to undertake a PhD across two departments, analysing and producing work through computation, in an attempt to progress the sci-art fusion that inspired the earliest computer art.
The idea of programming computers to analyse and create art was considered unfashionable by many at the time. But thanks to academics such as Janis Jefferies, Robert Zimmer, Michael Casey and later, Mark d’Inverno, this wasn’t the case at Goldsmiths. So I came.
I joined Goldsmiths from Kent University’s Film Studies Department in 2006, bringing with me an interdisciplinary AHRC Creative Fellowship in interactive filmmaking, computation and cognitive science. Although I was originally in Music, I soon found myself taking a permanent job in the relatively embryonic Computing department, as the director of the newly launched Creative Computing BSc programme.
Over the past decade, it’s been immensely satisfying to see the department develop into one that is as successful as it is interdisciplinary. I’ve been fortunate to be able to continue my funded research in Creative Technologies throughout this period, whilst helping to launch and maintain a number of academic programmes, including Creative Computing, MA/MFA in Computational Arts, Music Computing (with the Music Department), Digital Arts Computing (with the Art Department), and the PhD in Arts and Computational Technology.
Goldsmiths is now one of the UK’s leading institutions for creative code, attracting the finest academics in the field, whilst producing world-renowned research in interaction, creativity and machine learning. I’d like to think I’ve played a part in that transformation, and hope I can continue to do so.
Mick Grierson and Matthew Yee-King ask how computer science can benefit from art school approaches to learning.
Newcomers sometimes find it difficult to find their way around the Goldsmiths campus, so here’s a video guide to locating our Computing labs:
RHB 306, Richard Hoggart Building
RHB 306a, Richard Hoggart Building
St James Block 3 ground floor
Hatchlab, G11 Hatcham St James Building
WB 219 and Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Whitehead Building
NB: All of these labs are wheelchair accessible, but the directions below sometimes assume an ability to climb stairs. Please contact us if you need accessible directions.
RHB 306, Richard Hoggart Building
The big computing lab on the second floor of the Richard Hoggart Building (the main, old red brick building). From reception, turn left and go up the red corridor. Take Staircase B to the second floor. Then take the 4-5 steps in front of you, and head left into RHB 306.
RHB 306a, Richard Hoggart Building
You’d think that this would be right next to RHB 306, wouldn’t you? It is, but you access it from the other side of the building. From the Richard Hoggart Building reception, turn right and go up the white corridor. Take Staircase F to the second floor. Go straight ahead into RHB 306.
St James Block 3 ground floor
This is the most difficult to find! From Goldsmiths College Green, go down the back of the Whitehead Building. Follow the road down the hill until you reach TCIDA (Tungsten Centre for Intelligent Data Analytics). Turn right and walk towards St James Block 3, which looks like a big mobile classroom.
Hatchlab, G11 Hatcham St James Building This is the cool maker space in the back of ‘the church’. From Goldsmiths College Green, go though the gate at the top of Laurie Grove. Go down the little alleyway next to the Laban Centre, and you’ll see the church in front of you. Hatchlab (aka G11) is at the back of the ground floor. Wheelchair users can take the side entrance on the left of the building. If you’re coming from New Cross Road, watch this video instead.
WB 219 and the Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Whitehead Building The Whitehead Building is the modern yellow building on the College Green. Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre is on the ground floor. WB 219 computing labs are upstairs.
As we hurtle towards the end of 2017, here’s a look back at this September’s Computational Arts exhibition, OVERLAP.
The MA/MFA Computational Arts is a hands-on programme for the next generation of digital artists to develop practical skills in the fields of creative coding, physical computing and computational arts. The annual exhibition is organised by current students and showcases their final projects.
BioBlox, a VR game which tackles how biological molecules fit together, exhibits at this year’s New Scientist Live.
BioBlox is the result of a collaboration between researchers at Imperial College London and Goldsmiths, University of London. It turns the science of how proteins fit together (or ‘dock’) with smaller molecules, such as medicines and vitamins, into a Tetris-style puzzle game and quiz. Players manipulate and dock molecules into proteins to score points and earn bonus powers in a race against time.
First launched as a 2D mobile game, Bioblox is now available as a 3D desktop game and Virtual Reality experience – which exhibits at New Scientist Live 2017.
Where: New Scientist Live, ExCel Centre, London E16 1XL When: 28 September – 1 October 2017 Tickets and info
How molecules dock onto proteins is the key to understanding processes in the cell, and in particular to designing new drugs to treat conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. The complex 3D forms of such molecules – resembling the bumpy surface of an asteroid full of pits and craters – make understanding how they fit together extremely challenging.
The researchers designed the game to be fun but also to help players learn about protein research and it could be used in schools to teach chemistry and biology. The quiz asks players to name a biological molecule from its description – for example asking them to name the molecule that is used by our cells to produce energy later identified as glucose.
Professor William Latham, from the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths, and Creative Director of the project, said: “In BioBlox2D we open the world of protein docking to the mass market casual games player, where they have fun playing our puzzle game but at the same time learn about the science.”
Professor Michael Sternberg, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial and one of project leads, said: “We were inspired by a scientific problem to develop a fun-to-play game where players can experience the challenges of matching both shapes and electrical charges, which is central to how life works.”
The researchers say the block-slotting gameplay is given an original twist as players also have to match positively charged blocks with negatively charged ones – a reference to the binding mechanisms of real proteins. Successfully clearing blocks unlocks information and bonuses such as slowing time and automatically completing a level.
The team have also released a 3D version at the same time as the 2D version, and hope to make it possible to crowdsource the protein docking problem through citizen science challenges.
The intention with BioBlox3D and BioBloxVR is to simulate the protein docking problem with far greater realism in 3D and potentially solve real-world problems. At the moment, the pre-set models in the game come from an existing protein database, but players will soon have the ability to upload their own protein data and experiment in 3D and VR.
Frederic Fol Leymarie, Professor of Computing at Goldsmiths and co-lead on the project, said: “It is hoped this will provide the building blocks for people to create citizen science challenges to, for instance, crowdsource the search for new drug molecules.”
A creative hackathon run by Goldsmiths Computing students forms the backbone of a new BBC1 documentary, which screened on Friday 23 June 2017.
The 30-minute programme ‘Invented in London’ uncovers London’s technology pioneers of the past, present and future – with a focus on Anvil Hack III, a Spotify-sponsored hackathon organised by student tech group Hacksmiths.
The 2-day Anvil Hack III took place on campus this April, focussing on the creative applications of technology. Supported by Goldsmiths Annual fund, it challenged participants to use their skills “to make something wonderful, arty, musical – anything you build will be awesome.”
Participants competed for a range of prizes including best audio hack (make something interesting using sound), best hardware hack, best visual hack (make a cool project showcasing awesome visuals), as well as best projects using Spotify, Twilio and Autodesk.
The rest of the BBC documentary featured profiles of Deliveroo, computing pioneer Ada Lovelace, an AI personal assistant and an artist who’d hacked a hearing aid to sonify wi-fi coverage.
Computer scientists at Goldsmiths feature in a Leicester festival celebrating the pioneers of acid house, techno and early internet cultures.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s something strange was happening. Early Virtual Reality and Internet were combining with house music, neo-psychedelia and cyberpunk fiction to produce a cultural movement that would herald the new hyper-connected world. Cyberculture: The Beginning of the Modern World is a exhibition of material from this era that explores this brave new world from the perspective of those who were there.
On Saturday 17 June, all-day digital arts event Phorward includes talks from William Latham – freaky fractals artist turned Goldsmiths professor – and internet pioneerIvan Pope, who created World Wide Web Newsletter at Goldsmiths’ Computer Centre in 1993.
The rest of the day features films, video games, VR and performances, plus a set by experimental electronic music producers & club promoters Higher Intelligence Agency.