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6 Sessions (adaptive)
Audit (Free)
Certificate (Incl. w/ Premium)
Program ($900 USD)
Simon Fraser University
Visual Arts, Creative Computing
Skill Level
Video Transcripts
Performance Art, Design Architecture, Games, Robotics
Course Description

This course proposes an introduction and overview of the history and practice of generative arts and computational creativity with an emphasis on the formal paradigms and algorithms used for generation.

On the technical side, we will study core techniques from mathematics, artificial intelligence, and artificial life that are used by artists, designers and musicians across the creative industry. We will start with processes involving chance operations, chaos theory and fractals and move on to see how stochastic processes, and rule-based approaches can be used to explore creative spaces. We will study agents and multi-agent systems and delve into cellular automata, and virtual ecosystems to explore their potential to create novel and valuable artifacts and aesthetic experiences.

The presentation is illustrated by numerous examples from past and current productions across creative practices such as visual art, new media, music, poetry, literature, performing arts, design, architecture, games, robot-art, bio-art and net-art. Students get to practice these algorithms first hand and develop new generative pieces through assignments and projects in MAX. Finally, the course addresses relevant philosophical, and societal debates associated with the automation of creative tasks.

Music for this course was composed with the StyleMachineLite Max for Live engine of Metacreative Inc.
Artistic direction: Philippe Pasquier, Programmation: Arne Eigenfeldt, Sound Production: Philippe


This course is in Adaptive mode, and is open for enrollment. Learn more about Adaptive courses here.

Session 1: Introduction and Typology of Generative Art
To start off this course, we define generative art and computational creativity and discuss how these relate through the study of prominent examples. We establish a typology of generative systems based on levels of autonomy and agency.
Session 2: History Of Generative Art, Chance Operations, and Chaos Theory
Generative art is nothing new, and this session goes through the history of the field from pre-history to the popularization of computers. We study chance, noise, fractals, chaos theory, and their applications in visual art and music.
Session 3: Rule-Based Systems, Grammars and Markov Chains
This session introduces and illustrate the generative potential of rule-based and expert systems. We study generative grammars through the Chomsky hierarchy, and introduce L-systems, shape grammars, and Markov chains. We discuss how these have been applied in visual art, music, design, architecture, and electronic literature.
Session 4: Cognitive Agents And Multiagent Systems
This session introduces the concepts underlying the notion of artificial agents. We study the belief, desire, and intention (BDI) cognitive architecture, and message based agent communication resting on the speech act theory. We discuss musical agents, conversational agents, chat bots and twitter bots and their artistic potential.
Session 5: Reactive Agents And Multiagent Systems
In this session, we introduce reactive agents and the subsumption architecture. We study boids, and detail how complex behaviors can emerge from a distributed population of simple artificial agents. We look at a myriad of applications from ant painting to swarm music and we discuss artistic approaches to virtual ecosystems.
Session 6: A-Life And Cellular Automaton 
In this concluding session, we introduce artificial life (A-life). We study cellular automaton, multi-agent ecosystems for music, visual art, non-photorealistic rendering, and gaming. The session also concludes the class by reflecting on the state of the art in the field and its consequences on creative practices.
Learning Outcomes

Below you will find an overview of the Learning Outcomes you will achieve as you complete this course.

Grading Policy
Course Great Breakdown Chart
Total: 100.00%

Coursework Grading Policy: The most important objective is for students to gain an understanding of the concepts taught, and to be able to apply those ideas in their own work. With this in mind, it is our hope that the coursework is seen as an opportunity to further the understanding of the concepts taught in class.

This course requires a total of approximately 50-60 hours of work, including both lectures and independent student learning time.

More on assignments and grading:

  • For quizzes, you are allowed one (1) attempt each. Make sure to study before you take each test.
  • You are permitted up to three chances at submitting the right answer in every in-video quiz question. Note results of in-video quizzes do not count towards your course grade.
  • For Premium members: To receive a verified Certificate of Accomplishment, you must score at least 70% overall in the class.

Plagiarism: We learn by doing our own work, and by collaborating with other students. Discussing course content and assignments with your peers is an important and helpful way to deepen your learning. However, encouraging others to copy your homework and submit it as their own is a form of cheating. So please don't post your completed assignments or correct answers to quizzes, tests, or other assessments to the discussion forums or in repositories outside of Kadenze.

Whenever you complete a course as a premium member, you can earn a verified Certificate of Accomplishment .

This course is also part of the Program: Generative Art and Computational Creativity. Earn a verified Specialist Certificate for successfully completing a Program.

These certificates are proof that you completed an online course on our platform and can easily be shared with its unique link.

Credit Elligible Program
This course is one of 2 courses in the Generative Art and Computational Creativity Program and is offered for credits from Simon Fraser University.

Earn a verified Specialist Certificate after successfully completing a Program. And whenever you complete a course as a Premium member, you earn a verified Certificate of Accomplishment . These certificates are proof that you completed an online course on our platform and can easily be shared with its unique link.

Instructors & Guests
What You Need to Take This Course

• Skill Level: Students should have intermediate knowledge of Max/MSP in order to complete assignments.

• Equipment: PC or Mac computer with installation privileges.

• Software: MAX 7 license

Additional Information

PLEASE NOTE: Taking part in a Kadenze course as a Premium Member does not affirm that you have been enrolled or accepted for enrollment by the institution offering this course. Credit Eligible students should be prepared to provide additional information and consent to Simon Fraser University terms of service at the start of the course.

In order to receive college credit for these program courses, you must successfully complete and pass all 2 courses in this program. If a student signs up for the Generative Art and Computational Creativity program, it is recommended that these courses are taken sequentially.

*Partial credit will not be awarded for completion of only one course.

Peer Assessment Code of Conduct: Part of what makes Kadenze a great place to learn is our community of students. While you are completing your Peer Assessments, we ask that you help us maintain the quality of our community. Please:

  • Be Polite. Show your fellow students courtesy. No one wants to feel attacked - ever. For this reason, insults, condescension, or abuse will not be tolerated.
  • Show Respect. Kadenze is a global community. Our students are from many different cultures and backgrounds. Please be patient, kind, and open-minded when discussing topics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other potentially controversial subjects.
  • Post Appropriate Content. We believe that expression is a human right and we would never censor our students. With that in mind, please be sensitive of what you post in a Peer Assessment. Only post content where and when it is appropriate to do so.

Please understand that posts which violate this Code of Conduct harm our community and may be deleted or made invisible to other students by course moderators. Students who repeatedly break these rules may be removed from the course and/or may lose access to Kadenze.

Students with Disabilities: Students who have documented disabilities and who want to request accommodations should refer to the student help article via the Kadenze support center. Kadenze is committed to making sure that our site is accessible to everyone. Configure your accessibility settings in your Kadenze Account Settings.