Notes on the Epistemology and Aesthetics of Interpretable Machine Learning
MONDAY. OCTOBER.8TH. 2018 · 1PM · ROOM 1601 (California NanoSystems Institute CNSI)


The primary goal of machine learning models today is not the mechanization of reason but the mechanization of perception. As a consequence, many of the tasks that machine learning models face are aesthetic tasks, ranging from the classification of images (CNNs) to the generation of completely new images (GANs). At the same time, the technical opacity of machine learning models makes it inherently difficult to properly evaluate their results. In fact, the interpretability of machine learning models has not only become an independent field of research within computer science but has also grown into an increasingly important philosophical challenge. The once speculative phenomenological question "how does the machine perceive the world" has become a real-world problem. In this talk I will try to answer the question “how does the machine perceive the world” by means of both a technical and a philosophical close reading of contemporary machine learning algorithms from the domain of interpretable machine learning. I will present ongoing research on the potential of feature visualizations for Digital Art History, on the notion of representation in feature visualizations, and on the aesthetics of ML-generated imagery.

Fabian Offert is a scholar, curator and stage designer. His work integrates technically informed critical and artistic approaches to the epistemological and aesthetic issues arising from contemporary machine learning algorithms. Currently, he is a doctoral candidate and Regent’s Fellow in the Media Arts and Technology program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he also teaches. His academic work has been featured at NIPS, ECCV, SIGGRAPH, Harvard University, EPFL, and other research universities. Before coming to California, Fabian worked at Goethe Institut New York and ZKM | Karlsruhe where he curated and managed several large-scale media art exhibitions. He received his Diploma degree from Justus Liebig University Gießen, where he was a German National Academic Foundation Fellow and student of composer and director Heiner Goebbels. His stage design work, supported by Kunststiftung NRW, the French Ministry of Culture, and others, is frequently shown in museums and theaters all over Europe, most recently at Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf.




Three New Musical Projects
MONDAY. OCTOBER.15TH. 2018 · 1PM · ROOM 1601 (California NanoSystems Institute CNSI)



In this talk I'll describe three recent results of a musical collaboration between me and the composer Kerry Hagan. Two of these are seriocomical
performance art pieces: "Who was that timbre I saw you with?" and the upcoming "Cover fire". These entail using new musical interfaces (sometimes called "NIMEs") to control computer audio processes in ways that are designed to be hard to master. In a very different vein, the performance/installation, "Remnant", measures the echos of sounds made by four performers off each others' bodies and uses the resulting impulse responses as a time-varying, artificial aural space.


Miller Puckette obtained a B.S. in Mathematics from MIT (1980) and Ph. D. in Mathematics from Harvard (1986), winning an NSF graduate fellowship and the Putnam Prize Scholarship. He was a member of MIT's Media Lab from its inception until 1987, and then a researcher at IRCAM (l'Institut de Recherche et de
Coordination Musique/Acoustique), founded by composer and conductor Pierre Boulez. At IRCAM he wrote Max, a widely used computer music software environment, released commercially in 1990 and now available from

Puckette joined the music department of the University of California, San Diego in 1994, where he is now professor. From 2000 to 2011 he was Associate Director of UCSD's Center for Research in Computing and the Arts (CRCA; now defunct).

He is currently developing Pure Data ("Pd"), an open-source real-time multimedia arts programming environment. Puckette has collaborated with many artists and musicians, including Philippe Manoury (whose Sonus ex Machina cycle was the first major work to use Max), Rand Steiger, Vibeke Sorensen, Juliana Snapper, and Kerry Hagan. Since 2004 he has performed with the Convolution Brothers. He has received honorary degrees from the University of Mons and Bath Spa University and the 2008 SEAMUS Lifetime Achievement Award.





.Creative instruments: enabling control, exploration, and expression in computational tools
MONDAY. OCTOBER.29TH. 2018 · 1PM · ROOM 1601 (California NanoSystems Institute CNSI)



Integrating computational tools into art, design, and engineering poses substantial challenges. New technologies present artists, designers, and engineers with rapidly changing toolsets and rigid platforms, whereas developers of computational tools struggle to provide appropriate constraints and degrees of freedom to match the needs of diverse practitioners. I study ways to address these challenges by developing systems that bridge manual and automated production and applying programming environments that enable practitioners to develop personalized software tools. In this talk, I present three future avenues of this research: systems for linked editing of multimodal artwork, systems for integrating manual control and automation in digital fabrication, and parametric tools for exploring alternatives in gestural creation. Each of these research avenues has the potential to provide access to powerful computational affordances while preserving opportunities for a variety of approaches to computational production.

Jennifer Jacobs is a Brown Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University, working in the Computer Science Department. Her research examines ways to diversify participation and practice in computational creation by building new tools, software, and programming languages that integrate emerging and established forms of production. Jennifer received her PhD from the MIT Media Lab in the Lifelong Kindergarten Research Group. She completed a MS in the Media Lab’s High-Low Tech Group and an MFA in Integrated Media Art at Hunter College. Her work has been presented at international venues including Ars Electronica, SIGGRAPH, and CHI, where she has received multiple best-paper awards.


  Zvoki Soče (Sounds of Soča)
MONDAY. NOVEMBER. 5TH. 2018 ·ROOM 1605 (California NanoSystems Institute CNSI)

Zvoki Soče (Sounds of Soča) is a one week project made in the Julian Alps during PIFcamp 2018: a hacker-based open experience where art, technology and knowledge meet.

Zvoki Soče features field recordings, electronic sounds and visual scores. This talk will share these sounds, placing a strong emphasis on the creative context behind it. It will also discuss the visual translation strategies used to parse sonic information into a graphic notation system.

Audience members will have the chance to see the original drawings of this project, and browse the book, which will be presented publicly for the first time.


After seven years of studying architecture and graduating with honours in both college and master programs, Juan Manuel decided finally to dedicate his life to the arts and design.In recent years he has been using code as a creative medium. Throughout Realität (founded in 1998); his work has been shown in the US, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Mexico, South Korea, Slovenia and featured in various festivals including OFFF (Barcelona and Mexico), Mutek, Binario, Ceremonia, Currents, amongst others. He has been awarded twice with the “Young Creators” grant by the National Fund for the Arts (2010 and 2013), the first prize for two consecutive years for “Best multimedia art application of the year” by the AMU (University Scholars Multimedia Association), and a current National Member of Art Creators (National Endowment for the Arts / MX).

He is a former member of the Master and PhD program in Architecture (National Autonomous University of Mexico) where he taught and directed its Media Lab. He is currently doing research to achieve his PhD in Media Arts & Technology at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). |




Connecting neuroscience and virtual reality to understand human navigation
MONDAY. NOVEMBER. 26TH · ROOM 1601 (California NanoSystems Institute CNSI)


Navigation is a central part of daily life. For some, getting around is easy, while others struggle, and certain clinical populations display wandering behaviors and extensive disorientation. Working at the interface between immersive virtual reality and neuroimaging techniques, my research demonstrates how these complementary approaches can inform questions about how we acquire and use spatial knowledge. In this talk, I will discuss both some of my recent work and upcoming experiments that center on three main themes: 1) how we learn new environments, 2) the type of spatial information we learn from environments, and 3) how individuals differ in their spatial abilities. The behavioral and neuroimaging studies presented in this talk inform new frameworks for understanding spatial knowledge, which could lead to novel approaches to answering the next major questions in navigation.


Dr. Elizabeth Chrastil is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at UCSB and is a faculty member in the Interdisciplinary Dynamical Neuroscience Program. Dr. Chrastil is the Associate Director of the Research Center for Virtual Environments and Behavior (RECVEB) at UCSB.
Dr. Chrastil received her PhD from Brown University and did her postdoctoral work at Boston University. She also received an MS in biology from Tufts University and a BA from Washington University in St. Louis.


  Tactile Mechanics: Its Import to Haptic Perception and Technology
MONDAY. DECEMBER. 3RD. 2018 · ROOM 1601 (California NanoSystems Institute CNSI)

The astonishing variety of phenomena resulting from the contact between fingers and objects may be regarded as a trove of information that can be extracted by organisms to learn about the nature and the properties of what is touched. This richness, which is completely different from that available to the other senses, is likely to have fashioned our somatosensory system at all levels of its organisation, from early mechanics to cognition. The talk will illustrate this idea through examples and show how the physics of mechanical interactions shape the messages that are sent to the brain; and how the early stages of the somatosensory system en route to the primary areas are organised to process these messages.

Vincent Hayward is presently on leave from Sorbonne Université. Before, he was with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University, Montréal, Canada, where he became a full Professor in 2006 and was the Director of the McGill Centre for Intelligent Machines from 2001 to 2004. Vincent Hayward is an elected a Fellow of the IEEE. He was an ERC advanced grant holder from 2010 to 2016. Since January 2017, he is Professor of Tactile Perception and Technology at the School of Advanced Studies of the University of London, supported by a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship. 










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Since 1998, the Media Arts and Technology graduate program hosts a periodic seminar series. The transdisciplinary nature of our program is also reflected in the diverse range of fields our speakers come from: engineering, electronic music, art and science.

They are all free and open to the public.

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Most of our seminar talks take place at Elings Hall (CNSI. California NanoSystems Institute), room 1601 & 1605. See each talk's information for the final location.

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The 2018/2019 Seminar Series is supported by the generous support of the Media Arts and Technology Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Chair's Fund at MAT,  Prof. Yon Vissel, The Systemics Lecture Series, The UCSB College of Engineering, The UCSB College of Humanities and Fine Arts.