Algorithmic Pattern

How can ancient and traditional approaches to pattern-making enrich contemporary creative technologies, making them more culturally grounded, usable, and more open to experiment, collaboration and change? Starting December 2021, Alex McLean will work with a wide range of collaborators to find out, through a major four-year Future Leaders Fellowship funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The Algorithmic Pattern project (codenamed 'Alpaca') will investigate "heritage algorithmic arts", in order to rethink the design principles of contemporary creative technology. Broadly speaking, heritage algorithms consist of procedures and rules of pattern - shifting, combining, reflecting, rotating, interfering, glitching, and combinations thereof, at multiple scales.

Patterns are also at work in computers, from binary operations in low-level machine code, to high-level operations used by artist-programmers in creative coding. However, the word "pattern" is overloaded, and is often used to describe simple phenomena such as straightforward sequences in music. On the other hand, the word 'algorithm' is often used to describe unfathomable complexity. In combination, "Algorithmic Pattern" refers to human-made algorithms, where complex and surprising results can come from the combination of simple parts. This offers us rich ways of making; easy to learn but taking a lifetime to explore.

Through this fellowship we will research historical and contemporary technologies and practices for algorithmic pattern through a diverse range of collaborations. Thanks to being hosted by the non-profit research and design studio Then Try This, we will be able to work across disciplines and within communities in ways that would not be possible in a traditional academic institution.

We can't wait to get started, and are extremely grateful to the project collaborators, mentors and other supporters and of course UKRI for making all this possible. More details to follow!