11. July 2019 | Press releases:

Automated creativity in literature and music MWK funds research into the role of computers in creative processes

Artificial intelligence and algorithms are increasingly becoming part of everyday life. A project run by the Technische Universität Braunschweig investigates the forms and effects of algorithmic creativity from the perspective of cultural studies and humanities. For their project, Eckart Voigts, Jan Röhnert and Dietmar Elflein from the Faculty of Humanities and Studies in Education have received funding from the Lower Saxony Ministry for Science and Culture (MWK).

Long before digitalisation became a matter of course, musicians and writers had experimented with automated creativity. The research project set up by Professor Eckart Voigts of the Institute of English and American Studies in co-operation with Professors Jan Röhnert of the Institute of German Studies and Dietmar Elflein of the Institute of Music, and funded by the MWK with a maximum of 500,000 euros, analyses automation in music and literature. The researchers describe how established practices, ethics and concepts are complemented, transformed, or superseded by digital automation.

“We want to see what lies behind the buzzword ‘artificial intelligence’, or, to be more specific, computer programs that are learning on the basis of existing data. We ask what social, cultural and aesthetic changes the use of such neural networks and their precursors has historically brought about in areas of creative work such as music and literature, what they are changing now, and also how we can imagine the future of machine creativity,” says Professor Voigts.

The part of the project devoted to literature will focus on reviewing machine creativity in terms of writing, from its historical and theoretical beginnings with the automata of the 17th and 18th century to the deep learning applications of the 21st century. The musicological part of the project aims to trace changes in the creativity apparatus in various areas of musical creativity in the field of tension between popular music and contemporary serious music.

With the call for proposals “Humanities and Cultural Studies – digital”, the MWK supports innovative projects on new research opportunities that arise through the use of digital methods and reflect about the associated changes. As part of the programme, the MWK is funding a total of 13 research projects at universities and research institutes in Lower Saxony with a total of around six million euros from the Volkswagen funding initiative “Niedersächsisches Vorab”.

Funding is provided for foundational as well as application-oriented projects that involve close interdisciplinary cooperation between the humanities, cultural studies and technical disciplines.