London Connection Q&A: Dr Mick Grierson

Dr Mick Grierson from Goldsmiths, University of London, talks about Creative Computing and the future of gaming.
Dr Mick Grierson
Real-world experience and real-world problems: Dr Mick Grierson
I believe the future of games will be even more varied and interesting - more social, interactive, and a part of everyday life

Your PhD was in audiovisual art. What prompted your interest in this area?
A fascination with the relationship between sound and image in cinema, and the development of ‘audiovisual composition’, whereby images and sounds are woven together in complex compositional forms. My PhD bridged film studies and music composition.

How did you go about choosing Goldsmiths as your employer of choice?
I chose Goldsmiths, University of London, based on  its focus on interdisciplinary subjects and expertise in computational arts and electronic music.

What are the top three criteria students should look out for in a university?
Choose a course that you’re passionate about. This really paid off for me, as I met some great people who shared my interests. Choose to study a course developed by a University with high quality research in your area of interest. Choose a University whose qualifications are internationally recognised. Your degree will be valued by top employers in across the world, if you choose to relocate.

What does the study of Creative Computing entail?
Creative Computing is an interdisciplinary approach to computer science which covers audio and music software design, video and graphics software development, games, interactive arts, social computing etc.

"Our graduates walk straight into jobs in the creative technology industries, because they have been building applications, creative artefacts and sophisticated computer systems which form a portfolio of work, long before they sit their final exams"

We teach students how to apply computer science principles to creative media technologies. Our students create  applications, music, games, and visual artefacts as part of their degree. Our industry partners tell us that they are looking for graduates with practical experience who can write software that people want to use. Our graduates walk straight into jobs in the creative technology industries, because they have been building applications, creative artefacts and sophisticated computer systems which form a portfolio of work, long before they sit their final exams.

Can you describe the current creative computing landscape in the UK?
Computing has never been so central to people's lives, and interacting with computers is all about creative approaches, involving imagination as well as sounds and images. One area of the economy that’s growing  worldwide is the creative technologies sector. Look at the fantastic start up companies who are seeking  programmers with real-world experience in apps, multimedia and games programming, and who can contribute to the whole software development process, combined with the soft skills to interact with clients.

What were you doing, career-wise, prior to obtaining your PhD?
Until 2000 I was a freelance filmmaker and composer.

What’s the best thing about your job?
Computer Science is about real-world experience and real-world problems and this is what fascinates me. I'm happiest when I'm working with my research team inventing new ways of creating interactive sound and images using our own software.

It was really satisfying when American artist Christian Marclay  won the Golden Lion at the 2010 Venice Art Biennale for his work, The Clock, as he was using my software to create it. The Clock was a film montage of moments in cinema and television history, each depicting the passage of time. What we're discovering doesn't just change the way we make music and film but helps us understand how the brain works. It's addictive and exciting. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?
Dealing with University administration!

The Creative Computing degree offers students a gateway into the digital media and creative technologies sector, such as the games industry. On this note, what do you think the future of the gaming industry will be like?
I believe the future of games will be even more varied and interesting - more social, interactive, and a part of everyday life. Developments in Brain Computer Interface technology will allow games to respond much more directly to our thoughts and emotions, creating interactions that are sensitive and human. 

Dr Mick Grierson is Director of the BSc Creative Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. As well as the on-campus programme at Goldsmiths, the BSc is also offered by distance and flexible learning through the University of London International Programmes. For details please visit www.londoninternational.ac.uk/comp  wwww.ac...ac