Whitehead Lectures in Cognition, Computation and Culture

In this section


Goldsmiths' Departments of Computing and Psychology organise regular lectures by guest speakers throughout the academic year encompassing diverse aspects of cognition, computation and culture. All are welcome to attend.

All seminars are held at 4pm in the Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre, unless otherwise stated. Check our map for directions to Goldsmiths. For enquiries related to the lectures, please contact Karina Linnell or Frederic Leymarie.

Autumn lectures 2016

How does the development of inhibitory control interact with the development of conceptual understanding?

Wednesday 19 October 2016
Andrew Simpson (University of Essex)
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London

ABSTRACT: Inhibitory Control is a component of Executive Function. It is the capacity to avoid an incorrect response or irrelevant information in order to meet a current goal. Children’s performance on a wide range of ‘inhibitory tasks’ improves dramatically between three and five years.

We propose that these tasks can be divided into two groups, and have inhibitory demands that are created in different ways. In ‘Response-given’ tasks, the task’s structure contrives to automatically trigger a specific incorrect response which must then be inhibited. In ‘Open’ tasks, the child’s own reasoning, based on their conceptual understanding of the task, leads initially to the to-be-inhibited response. This means that the conceptual understanding a child brings to a task determines whether it has inhibitory demands. Conceptualize the task one way, a to-be-inhibited response is generated, and inhibition is required; conceptualize it another way, no to-be-inhibited response is generated, and no inhibition is required.

We suggest that this insight has significant implications for our theories of cognitive development. The view that weak Inhibitory Control simply acts as a brake on early conceptual development is far too limited. Instead, Inhibitory Control and conceptual understanding interact, in complex ways, across the course of infancy and childhood.

BIOGRAPHY: Andrew’s original undergraduate degree was in genetics from the University of Sheffield, and he obtained a PhD in molecular biology from Queens' College, Cambridge in 1990. He then worked in London for several years at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (now DEFR) as a science advisor and administrator. At the same time, Andrew studied for a BSc in Psychology at Birkbeck College, London.

Following completion of this degree, he worked as a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. While at Birmingham, Andrew started a part-time PhD in cognitive development, which he completed in 2005. He later also lectured part-time at London Metropolitan University, before joining the academic staff of the University of Essex in 2008


What Can Deep Neural Networks Learn From Music?

Date: 4.30-5.30pm Monday 7 November 2016 (NB: different day and time)
Speaker: Douglas Eck, Research Scientist, Google Brain
Place: Ben Pimlott lecture hall

Abstract: I'll discuss the Magenta Project, an effort to generate music, video, images and text using machine intelligence. Magenta poses the question, “Can machines make music and art? If so, how? If not, why not?” (Partial answer: machines won't replace artists or musicians anytime soon, thankfully!)

The goal of Magenta is to produce open-source tools and models that help creative people be even more creative. I will give an overview of Magenta with focus on closing the loop between musicians and code. I'll discuss recent progress in audio and music score generation, and will focus on the challenge of improving machine learning generative models based on user and artist feedback.

Bio: Douglas Eck is a Research Scientist at Google working in the areas of music and machine learning. Currently he is leading the Magenta Project, a Google Brain effort to generate music, video, images and text using deep learning and reinforcement learning. One of the primary goals of Magenta is to better understand how machine learning algorithms can learn to produce more compelling media based on feedback from artists, musicians and consumers. Doug led the Search, Recommendations and Discovery team for Play Music from the product's inception as Music Beta by Google through its launch as a subscription service. Before joining Google in 2010, Doug was an Associate Professor in Computer Science at University of Montreal (MILA lab) where he worked on rhythm and meter perception, machine learning models of music performance, and automatic annotation of large audio data sets.

Linguistic and perceptual colour categories

4pm-5pm Wednesday 9 November 2016
Speaker: Christoph Witzel, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Germany
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London

ABSTRACT: Colour categorisation has been the prime example used to investigate the relationship between perception and language. By now, the perspective on this theme has developed from a simple contrast between nature and nurture towards a focus on the complex interplay between perception, culture, and ecology. However, it is still an open question whether there is a perceptual counterpart of linguistic colour categories. In an extensive series of studies, we investigated different ways in which linguistic colour categories may be related to colour perception to give an answer to this question.

BIOGRAPHY: Christoph Witzel obtained a university degree in psychology and another one in political science and cultural anthropology from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. He did his PhD in Experimental Psychology at Gießen University in Germany, then a postdoc at the University of Sussex, Brighton, UK and at the Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France. Now, he is back for a postdoc at Gießen University. Christoph’s research focuses on colour vision and extends to other topics, such as Synaesthesia and Sensory Substitution

Cultural Computing: Looking for Japan

Wednesday 16 November 2016
Speaker: Naoko Tosa
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths

Naoko Tosa is a pioneer in the area of media art and is an internationally renowned Japanese media artist. Her artworks became well known worldwide in late 1980s after one of her early artworks was selected for the “New Video, Japan” exhibition at MOMA, New York.

In this talk - part of the Whitehead Lecture Series - she demonstrates the role of information technology in enabling new understandings of our multicultural world, and discusses cross-cultural cultures from the viewpoint of an artist who is herself deeply immersed in both eastern and western cultures. She then proposes a new vision that is founded upon the relationships between diverse cultures.


Naoko Tosa's artworks have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Metropolitan Art Museum (New York) and at many other locations worldwide. She held a solo exhibition at Japan Creative Center (Singapore) in 2011. Her artworks have recently focused on visualising the unconsciousness.

She has been appointed as Japan Cultural Envoy 2016 by the Commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Airs. She is expected to promote Japanese culture to the world by exhibiting her artworks and also through her networking activities with overseas people of culture.?

She has won numerous awards, including awards from ARS Electronica, UNESCO's Nabi Digital Storytelling Competition of Intangible Heritage, Yeosu Marine Expo (Korea) and Good Design Award Japan.

In 2012, she exhibited her digital artwork called 'Four God Fag' which symbolises four traditional Asian gods connecting Asia. In 2014 she was awarded Good Design Award Japan by her projection mapping using only actual images. In 2015 she carried out projection mapping celebrating RIMPA 400 anniversary and attracted more than 16,000 attendees.

She is currently a professor at Kyoto University's Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education. After receiving a PhD in Art & Technology research from the University of Tokyo, she became a fellow at the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT.?

Her new book 'Cross-Cultural Computing: An Artist's Journey' is available from Springer UK.

Sheldon Brown (University of California San Diego)
4pm-5pm, Wednesday 23 November 2016
Lecture Theatre, Ben Pimlott Building, Goldsmiths

Art is often considered to be an exemplary outcome of imaginative processes, and it is also thought of as a means of engaging the imagination of audiences, but what is the phenomena that is inferred by the word "imagination"?

In this lecture, Sheldon Brown will show a series of works that aim to directly engage components of cognition that might be aspects of what is generally considered to be imagination. These artworks are an aspect of how Sheldon is attempting to understand the phenomena at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, through collaborations with neuroscience, cognitive science, computational science, engineering, medicine, literature, and the arts.

Bio: Sheldon Brown combines computer science research with vanguard cultural production. He is the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair of Digital Media and Learning at UCSD, and is the Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination where he is a Professor of Visual Arts and a co-founder of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies (Calit2).

His interactive artworks have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai, The Exploratorium in San Francisco, Ars Electronica in Linz Austria, The Kitchen in NYC, Zacheta Gallery in Warsaw, Centro Nacional in Mexico City, Oi Futuro in Rio de Janeiro, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and others.

He has also been featured at leading edge techno-culture conferences such as Supercomputing, SIGGRAPH, TedX, GDC, has been commissioned for public artworks in Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego and Mexico City, and has received grants from the NSF, AT&T New Experiments in Art and Technology, the NEA, IBM, Intel, Sun Microsystems, SEGA SAMMY, Sony, Vicon and others.Biography: Sheldon Brown holds the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair in Digital Media and Learning. He is the Director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and is UCSD Site Director of the NSF Sponsored Center for Hybrid Multicore Productivity Research.

Recent projects include:

  • The Scalable City an interactive game installation, 3D movie and other artifacts show at venues including the Shanghai MOCA, The Exploratorium, The National Academy of Science, Ars Electronica, and many others.
  • StudioLab, 2003 installation at Image/Architecture, Florence Italy
  • Smoke and Mirrors, 2000-2002 an installation at the Fleet Science Museum, and a touring environment; Istoria, a series of sculptures

 Attention and Cross-Cultural differences: Using a computational model to unveil some of the processes involved

4pm-5pm Wednesday 30 November 2016
Speaker: Eirini Mavritsaki, Birmingham City University
Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London

ABSTRACT: Although the majority of research in Visual Attention is based on European American cultures, additional research has shown differences in attending the visual field between members of collectivist East Asian cultures and individualist European American cultures. Research into picture perception showed that East Asians are more likely to attend to the perceptual field as a whole and to perceive relationships between a salient object and its background than European Americans. In our lab, we used a computational model and behavioural studies to further study the observed differences. The spiking Search over Time and Space (sSoTS) model simulates the traditional visual search task. In sSoTS, we reduced saliency levels and by doing this could simulate effects of similar manipulations in traditional visual search experiments. To further investigate the relationship between targets and distractors in the two cultural groups, and the differences amongst the cultural groups, we used traditional visual search experiments in both bottom-up and top-down search and were able to replicate the effects found in the literature. In this talk I will present the results from this work and discuss the role of saliency.

BIOGRAPHY: Dr Eirini Mavritsaki is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for Applied Psychological Research in Birmingham City University. Eirini did her PhD in The University of Sheffield and her postdoctoral research in The University of Birmingham and The University of Oxford in the areas of visual attention and learning. Eirini’s work in visual attention has been expanded to developing a model based analysis of fMRI data and investigating the underlying processes involved in visual neglect, visual extinction and disorders like ADHD, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, while she further expanded her research to investigate cross-cultural differences in visual attention using behavioural and computational modelling studies. Eirini’s work has been awarded the Cognitive Psychology Prize by the British Psychological Society in 2012.

Composer, Performer, Listener

4pm-5pm Thursday 8 December 2016
Speaker: Jason A. Freeman
Venue: Goldsmiths Cinema, Richard Hoggart Building (RHB 110)

Abstract: Jason Freeman develops novel and innovative compositional designs and technologies to make contemporary art music accessible to a large and diverse audience. His music responds to the challenge of arts engagement in contemporary society, inviting performers and audiences to collaborate with him and with each other to create music. In each project, he fundamentally reimagines the roles of audiences and performers, combining new interfaces with traditional instruments, participation with performance, computer code with music notation, and transformative paradigms with traditional ensembles and venues. In this talk, Freeman will explore key compositional and technological ideas that enable these novel relationships between composer, performer, and listener in his work, including real-time music notation, live coding, laptop ensembles, mobile technology, and open-form scores.

Bio: Jason Freeman is a Professor of Music at Georgia Tech. His artistic practice and scholarly research focus on using technology to engage diverse audiences in collaborative, experimental, and accessible musical experiences. He also develops educational interventions in K-12, university, and MOOC environments that broaden and increase engagement in STEM disciplines through authentic integrations of music and computing. His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, exhibited at ACM SIGGRAPH, published by Universal Edition, broadcast on public radio’s Performance Today, and commissioned through support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Freeman’s wide-ranging work has attracted support from sources such as the National Science Foundation, Google, and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. He has published his research in leading conferences and journals such as Computer Music Journal, Organised Sound, NIME, and ACM SIGCSE. Freeman received his B.A. in music from Yale University and his M.A. and D.M.A. in composition from Columbia University.

Organised and co-hosted by Dr Rebecca Fiebrink, Department of Computing, Goldsmiths, University of London.