topics for study with alan dorin

If you are interested in applying to complete postgraduate research PhD, Masters, or collaboration, this document provides a starting point for understanding Alan Dorin's activities.

The information I need from you as a potential student or collaborator is detailed below.

principal research areas

keywords. My research usually involves the application of ideas based in the fields detailed in the numerous sections of this document but I am always open to new ideas.
agent-based modelling, architecture, artificial chemistry, artificial life, automata, autopoiesis,
biological simulation, computational creativity, digital design, dynamical hierachies,
ecological modelling, electronic art, evolution, game design and programming,
generative art, history of science and technology, individual-based modelling,
interactive systems, music synthesis and composition, scientific visualization,
self-assembly, self-organisation, virtual reality...

generative & self-organizing systems

These systems exploit database amplification and emergence, in which complex large-scale outcomes arise from simple, local specifications. Examples include the emergence of group behaviour in collections of biological organisms such as social insects (bees, wasps, ants), herd, flocking and crowd interactions. These systems also specify the interactions that form the hierarchies of biology, all the way from atoms to ecosystems. Studies in Artificial Life and computational biology are all related to one another through a common interest in generative and self-organizing systems. Research in this area might entail the implementation of models of self-assembly and the production of dynamical hierarchies. The simulation of biological phenomena also provides ample scope for inter-disciplinary study. Specific areas of interest include cellular and developmental models, reaction-diffusion systems, Cellular Automata, L-systems and grammar-based approaches to models of growth.

computational and evolutionary creativity

These fields investigate how computer software may be used to generate creative outcomes as significant as those generated by evolution. Approaches to achieving this aim involve the application of generative and self-organizing systems, digital evolution and other algorithms to produce novelty, and to couple this with methods for selecting promissing avenues for elaboration.

Research into new techniques for computational creativity may take existing techniques as a basis and look to other disciplines (e.g. visual and sonic art, architecture, 3D modelling, digital design) in order to clearly demonstrate new potential for computer software as a creative medium and to improve our understanding of how biological systems evolve novel responses to the problems inherent in survival in complex, dynamic environments.

history and philosophy of science, technology and art

The established theory and criticism of art largely neglects generative and artificial life art. A theory is needed which places these fields into the context of science and art generally. Further consideration of creativity, especially as it apply to computers and the technological manufacture of aesthetic artefacts is always needed.

The study of the history of life-like artefacts is similarly limited in scope. Research is needed to link artistic concerns to technological developments, and to place these in the context of the development of biological concepts by philosophers and scientists since the ancients.

Whilst the art/science divide has been addressed by many commentators, there remains ample scope for current theories of computer-based generative art and artificial life with clear reference to their roots in cybernetic art, kinetic art, robotic art and mechanical automata.

Ancient Greek and Roman automata, and the 8-11th century "ingeneous devices" of the Islamic empire, are fascinating topics of study for which a co-supervisor in the classics dept. could be organised.

This research would best form the basis of simultaneous investigations into one or several of the other areas detailed in this document. Candidates interested in studying this area specifically would be encouraged to seek co-supervision within the Humanities.

computer-based artificial life
Artificial Life is the study of biological phenomena using software models and simulations. It is a super-set of the study of generative and self-organizing systems (see above). In addition to these concerns, studies in Artificial Life may investigate the spread of disease, evolutionary stable strategies, mate-selection, game-play and competition or complete virtual creatures and worlds. Many Artificial Life simulations are agent-based. The systems studied typically operate in a “bottom-up” fashion where the researcher establishes rules of interaction amongst simple elements, in order to have them exhibit emergent, global behaviour. Simulation of biological phenomena employing Artificial Life and agent-based models may form the basis of research which better helps us understand the principles and behaviours of the natural world - in particular, I am currently interested in students willing to study insect/flowering-plant interactions. Artificial Life models may be used as a test-bed for studies which are difficult or impossible to carry out in the field. Additionally, Artificial Life provides a basis for understanding complexity in the physical world in general, in such a way that it may be applied to solving problems in areas as diverse as traffic routing and searching algorithms.

practice of interaction
Computer-human interaction has improved considerably since the days of punch cards and batch processing but much remains to be explored. Especially where aesthetic concerns dominate, the keyboard and mouse are inadequate for many applications whilst more complex and cumbersome technologies such as headsets, data-gloves and stereo screens are expensive and often over-ride the aesthetics of the experience of a work of interactive or immersive art. I am interested in the development and analysis of new techniques for fluid interaction with computer software, in particular with dynamic, generative software and virtual spaces. Research in this area could involve the development of specific software and hardware (or the development of software for use with exisiting hardware) for monitoring the behaviour of a human user and incorporating this into electronic generative processes.

computer graphics + animation

Computer Graphics has become a very broad field dealing with image synthesis techniques. Opposite are some areas of particular interest. These have been broken into three major graphics topics that could form the basis for further research.

In each, research would take the form of qualitative or quantitative improvements to existing techniques, or the development of new methodologies which clearly broaden the possibilities for image synthesis.

modelling - physically & functionally-based modelling, biologically-inspired modelling, model synthesis algorithms (procedural modelling in general)

rendering - non-photorealistic rendering techniques, especially those based on the principles discussed above.

animation - behavioural and procedural animation, interactive animation, Artificial Intelligence & Artificial Life-based animation

biological and ecological modelling

Computer simulation opens countless avenues for understanding the natural world. How does evolution work under different circumstances? How do organisms survive in complex dynamical environments? How do populations of organisms interact with one another? How and when do species appear? What are niches and how are they generated? ...the list of questions is endless. In many cases, field experiments may be impractical or even impossible to conduct – sometimes rigourously calibrated and validated simulations can provide answers. I am interested in exploring these models and investigating their properties in general.

Topics of interest in no particular order include: evolution simulation, foraging behaviour, niche construction, speciation, open-ended complexity increase, major transitions in evolution, cooperation and symbiosis, epidemiology, social networks, ecosystem stability.

further information...

To apply for a postgraduate position please contact me - alan /dot/ dorin /at/ monash /dot/ edu

Please attach:

(i) A recent copy of your academic record including detailed results for existing undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

(ii) If you are an international student from a non-English speaking background attach a copy of your IELTs English proficiency test if available.

(iii) a one-page research proposal including: (a) the intended area of your research; (b) the specific research question you wish to address (c) the proposed method of addressing the research question.

(iv) details of two academic referees and their contact details.

I look forward to hearing from you!

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