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Meet Our 2022 Small Research Grant Holders

Creative Informatics is delighted to announce recipients of funding for its third round of Small Grants for researchers based at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University. The grants offer academic researchers support with research costs of £5,000 for original research on the Creative Industries over a six-month period. After a robust selection process from a range of high-quality applications, we have selected the following nine recipients for grants:

John Paul Vargheese, Lecturer, School of Computing (Edinburgh Napier University), Marianne Wilson and Katherine Stephen (Edinburgh Napier University): Exploring the relationship between listener receptivity and the source of music recommendations. Music streaming platforms often employ algorithmic recommender systems in addition to expert curated playlists. These are intended to assist listeners with navigating extensive libraries, discovering new content and helping artists establish new audiences. Listeners may also receive word-of-mouth music recommendations from their peers based on knowledge of each other’s preferences and personal experiences. This project aims to investigate if the source of a music recommendation influences a listener’s receptivity, particularly their intentions of engaging further with a recommended artist, for example through album streaming, live show attendance or merchandise purchase. To achieve this, researchers plan to conduct an exploratory study designed to measure participants’ receptivity between three perceived sources of music recommendations (algorithmic, editorial-curated and peer recommendation). The researchers believe this research may provide insights into how those within the creative industries can optimise their ability to generate a sustainable revenue from their work.

Dr Dimitris Papageorgiou, (Edinburgh Napier University): Improvisation Technologies and Creative Machines: The Performer-Instrument Relational Milieu. This practice-led, artistic research study traces theoretical and practical understandings that explore the technicity and performance-practice of musical improvisation and builds upon the lead’s prior research on the fields of free improvisation, contemporary music notation, and interactive computer music to create a new, software-based generative musical system (pre-alpha, alpha). The project also invites internationally renowned performers/improvisers to test and to play with the developed system, and explores via its practice-led methodology whether the HCI performance setting promotes a dialogic and co-produced improvisational musical space.

Martin Disley (University of Edinburgh): Investigative Computing: An Aesthetic Approach. In recent years, sociotechnical critiques of machine learning systems have shed light on the myriad ways in which essentialist thinking both governs, and is operationalised in, the construction of machine learning models. Whilst the development of facial recognition models have been underscored by extensive critical work on their inherent fallibility, models centred on the voice remain an understudied area of AI ethics research despite falling foul of the same essentialising impulse. Through the production of an experimental short film, this project seeks to open up the social and technical limitations of these models for a general audience. In doing so we hope to articulate the potential of investigative computing to be used as part of creative practice to disseminate technical knowledge to non-technical researchers or to enable non-technical researchers to explore technical systems.

Samantha Vettese (Edinburgh Napier University): Measuring the capabilities of new, sustainable materials in digital and traditional craft practices towards repeatability and a widening of their usage. A big challenge in developing by-products of industrial processes into novel materials for craftspeople is the lack of shared knowledge on the possibilities and best practices for using them. Better understanding of how novel materials could be recycled and reused could lead to less wasteful industrial processes overall. This project proposes to gather knowledge about the best ways to use recyclable materials out of the heads of individual creatives and makers and into a repository which can be disseminated across the creative industries as a whole.

Dr Zack Moir, Director of the Applied Music Centre (Edinburgh Napier University): Mountain Bikes Data and Music Creation.  This project explores ways in which an interdisciplinary approach to sports and the arts can encourage engagement in both areas. We will look at ways in which we can encourage integrated engagement in artistic endeavours and healthy activity through the sonification of health and activity data from mountain biking. This will involve a range of activities including working with younger riders to collect and discuss health data and running music-making workshops with participants to help them to learn about and make music from their health/activity data. This is novel and innovative because it meaningfully links engagement with sport/exercise and music/arts education. This project will provide opportunities for people to actively engage in the creation/development of music through practical engagement in sports and exercise.

Tod Van Gunten, Lecturer in Economic Sociology (University of Edinburgh): Music streaming as global cultural diffusion. This research builds on prior Creative Informatics-funded work to develop models on of the global spread of songs on a music streaming platform.  Building on previous research on radio play, the project seeks to assess the extent to which globally successful songs are instant hits (a likely sign of coordinated marketing campaigns) or more slowly spreading “sleeper hits.”  The research will result in descriptive statistical models and visualisation tools demonstrating patterns of musical spread around the world.

Haftor Medbøe, Head of Screen & Performing Arts (Edinburgh Napier University)
Iain McGregor, School of Computing (Edinburgh Napier University)
Andrew Bell, School of Geosciences (University of Edinburgh): The Sound Beneath Our Feet. Taking as a starting point the curation and treatment of sonic data collected during the 16 year eruption of Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador, the project team will produce a range of creative responses to data to be presented in an immersive, surround sound setting. In exploring creative potentials of seismic data our aim is to make meaningful links between disciplines of science and humanities that provide new pathways to access while providing additional knowledge in respective fields. Processes and methods will be fully documented for dissemination to relevant communities and the project artefact will be showcased through a number of public engagement activities.

Iain McGregor, (Edinburgh Napier University): SOVRA: Subjective Orientation in VR audio. This project will involve establishing a method for capturing listeners’ experiences of spatial audio in VR. Whilst wearing a Head Mounted Display (HMD), sounds will be presented to listeners who will be asked to indicate the relative position in both orientation and depth. Traditional methods of capturing spatial listening experiences have focused on physical anatomy, in the erroneous belief that hearing is identical to listening. There are many factors that affect auditory spatial perception, from levels of listening, reproduction hardware, noise floor, presbycusis, general health, cognitive load, levels of distraction, type of content and even the choice of task, amongst many others. Having the ability to identify where listeners perceive a sound emanating from can also utilised for diagnosing hearing impairments as well as head injuries. Both VR simulations and AR support systems could be tested under different cognitive loads to develop novel forms of sonification to improve reaction times, spatial orientation, and navigation.

Dr Michael Wamposzyc, (Edinburgh Napier University): Visualisation of Metadata in 2D/3D Digital Cuneiform Artefacts. Cuneiform is an ancient writing system that was first used in around 3400 BC and is distinguished by its 3D imprinted, wedge-shaped reed marks on clay artefacts. The particular interest within the topic relates to the epistemic issues of 2D/3D data translation and representation. Two specific issues that the proposed creative prototype pilot will examine are: visualisation of the metadata of collected artefacts and visualisation of AI processes indicating/predicting the content of damaged tablet passages. The proposed interdisciplinary project will utilise hybrid creative practices and starts a collaboration with the Digital Pasts Lab (Israel) between Dr Michael Wamposzyc (PI) and Dr Shai Gordin (CI). The outcomes will investigate epistemic applications of data in the creative and cultural sector and ways of unlocking the value of archives and data sets.

Throughout their projects, researchers will share their findings through blog posts on the Creative Informatics website and other public engagement activities. Projects must complete by December 2022 and Creative Informatics will host a showcase in early 2023 to publicly share the outcomes of this new research.