Welcome to the international (English-speaking) blog of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki. Our blog invites views on research, education, student life, and other societal themes connected to our computer science fields. The intention is to build a forum as an open window for readers from inside and outside computer science. If you have any good ideas or articles to share on this blog, please feel free to contact us: cs-blog [ät] cs.helsinki.fi.

Computational Creativity - Now!

by Anna Kantosalo

Computational creativity is a new and hot topic in computer science. This year I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in the International Conference for Computational Creativity (ICCC) at the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana and present my first academic paper for the Discovery Research Group. The great community and fascinating topics of the conference made me want to share the highlights of my first conference experience with all of you!

This blog post offers a personal take on some of the most interesting topics of the conference. For a more detailed introduction to what computational creativity is, and how the Discovery Research Group studies it here at the University of Helsinki.

Put Your Computational Creativity Goggles On

What makes computational creativity interesting, is that our research goes beyond computers. Although a large part of our work goes to building simulations and developing algorithms, our study of creative behavior is not restricted to computers. As researchers we need a wider knowledge of what creative behavior is, and how it appears in single individuals or whole societies. It is also important to study art and think of important philosophical questions, such as what is creativity in the first place. Only then can we start building programs to act creatively.

This ideology can also be seen in at the  ICCC - while the majority of papers focuses on presenting new algorithms and more complex experiments and programs for generating art like poems, songs or paintings,  a great amount of the presentations also covered more multidisciplinary topics. These topics included  talks about humans creating together with computers, simulations of the effects of social policies to creativity, and philosophical issues on evaluating the creativity of computer programs. The audience of the conference is also wide - in addition to computer scientists, designers and artists alike are welcome to attend.

Hot Topics of the Conference

My personal favourite among this year’s topics was co-creation, a category to which I contributed to with my own interaction design related presentation. I had the honor of being the first speaker of the whole conference. From my first-timer’s perspective this seemed  quite a challenge, but it turned out to be a blessing, since I was able to concentrate on everyone else’s speeches after that. My own talk reflected on the topic of design processes for co-creative software from the viewpoint of interaction design [9]. It also presented our own interactive educational co-creation tool for writing poetry together with a computer.

From other contributions to co-creation I liked especially Robert Tubb’s take on different user strategies in communicating with a co-creative music composition program [16]. I was also impressed by Nicholas Davis’s talk on collaborative painting with computer colleagues [5]. His examples of computer and human working together were very impressive.

The topic of why and how computers are creative is one of the most interesting philosophical questions in the community. The first big question is, if we can assess the creativity of a computer without relying on its output. Both Simon Colton [3] and Diarmund O’Donoghue [12] presented new ideas for assessing creativity without the output. The second big question is related to metrics. When assessing creativity by output, we tend to pay a great deal of attention to how valuable and novel the output is. This year, Oliver Bown [2] and Kazjon Grace [7], argued that these measures are ill defined and demanded incorporating a human observer in the process.

The more “traditional” fields of computational creativity, such as music and poetry generation, had each their own session at the conference. As the highlights of the sessions I would like to mention Jukka Toivanen’s presentation on poetry generation based on news articles [15] . The presentation was kicked off by having a robot from the Jozef Stefan institute read out aloud one of the poems generated by Jukka’s program. The little artificial man gave a true performance, which won a heartfelt laughter from the audience. This way of presenting computer poetry seemed like a breakthrough; I remember thinking, how much more effective the poem felt when presented by a machine.

In the visual arts section, I was impressed by Dan Ventura’s presentation on how the DARCI system is gradually learning to convey the meaning of adjectives in its images [11]. In music, the presentation by François Pachet on creative transformation of notes to harmonisations with its examples was very captivating [13]. However for me the most interesting advances were taken in narrative: Guerrero Román’s talk on incorporating social norms into story generation [8], Rafael Pérez y Pérez’ presentation on a learning version of the Mexica system [14], and Tony Veale’s work on character development [17] were adding vividness and credibility to existing story generation systems.

Computer game enthusiasts will be happy to hear this year’s conference included a session on computational creativity in games. Games have been a very fruitful field for computational creativity to grow on, as the field hungers especially for content producing methods. Antonios Liapis presented a paper focusing on these ideas [10], he argued for mutual benefits as well as a more philosophical approach, in which the playing of a game is actually a creative event itself. This also produces some interesting possibilities for analysing gaming from a co-creation perspective. Michael Cook, the proud father of the famous game composing system Angelina, presented the most recent advances in Angelina’s work [4]. Most curious were his results from human evaluations of Angelina’s work at a game competition - they clearly showed that in games, humans tend to have a very positive outlook on the products made by a computer, whereas in many fields, such as poetry, the bias is negative.

On the creative society simulation front, this year’s conference boasted two interesting contributions: Liane Gabora discussed the effect of implementing social regulation in a society of artificial artists [6] and Oliver Bown discussed the effect of allowing for the cumulation of wealth acquired through creative behavior [1]. Gabora’s presentation showed, how enforcing a self regulation rule at the level of each agent produced two distinct classes of artists: the creators and imitators. This interesting finding goes to show similar societal mechanisms may contribute to the distinction between a creative and non-creative segment within our own society. Bown’s presentation then again focused on the question of why creative behavior has been useful from an evolutionary perspective.

While this blog post can not cover all the papers in the conference, you can look them up online. Almost all talks were taped (http://www.twitch.tv/computationalcreativity) and the whole proceedings is available online for free (http://computationalcreativity.net/iccc2014/proceedings/).

Extracurricular Activities

This year’s conference did not approach creativity solely from a scientific point of view, but also served as a place to present art with a computational focus. The conference was accompanied by an exhibition featuring works from artists participating in the conference. There was also a panel discussion between artists and scientists on computational creativity and its future. Especially artistic responsibility and ownership were discussed. This topic is especially interesting, since it seems to come up often enough when I’m discussing computer poetry in class or with friends.

The first day of the seminar also held an introductory tutorial to present the highlights of computational creativity. The educative theme was continued, when Tony Veale launched his textbook on computational creativity  (http://robotcomix.com/comix/Catalogue/mobile/) the next day. Tony’s fully illustrated comic-style book seems like something I’d even love to read at bedtime!

This year’s invited speaker, professor Oliver Deussen also brought an interesting perspective to computational creativity. He presented the work of his research group on a painting robot talking about physically rendering non-photorealistic images. The robot, which according to Deussen is not creative, was a marvellous piece of work enabling numerous possibilities for further development of creative machines. I daresay everyone in the conference was keen to get their hands on the robot and put it to use in producing its own creative material.

Top trends in the hallway discussions were Twitterbots, and multidisciplinary approaches to computational creativity. The former was seen as a great way to disseminate the products of computational creativity in a compact and accessible way. The second as a way to broaden the spectrum of computational creativity research and help it have a genuine impact on more specialised fields. At the same time both of these are likely to get more and more gifted individuals interested in computational creativity and contribute to this new and interesting field.

Next year the ICCC travels to Sundance in Utah, where our own professor Hannu Toivonen is going to be the program chair. I hope to go there and see the latest trends for myself, but if not possible, I’m sure to go there online!



[1] Bown, O. (2014) A Model of Runaway Evolution of Creative Domains. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[2] Bown, O. (2014) Empirically Grounding the Evaluation of Creative Systems: Incorporating Interaction Design. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[3] Colton, S., Pease, A., Corneli, J., Cook, M. & Llano, M. T. (2014) Assessing Progress in Building Autonomously Creative Systems. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[4] Cook, M. & Colton, S. (2014) Ludus Ex Machina: Building A 3D Game Designer That Competes Alongside Humans. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[5] Davis, N., Popova, Y., Sysoev, I., Hsiao, C., Zhang, D. and Magerko, B., (2014), Building Artistic Computer Colleagues with an Enactive Model of Creativity. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[6] Gabora, L. & Tseng, S. (2014) The Social Impact of Self-Regulated Creativity on the Evolution of Simple versus Complex Creative Ideas. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[7] Grace, K. & Maher, M. L. (2014) What to Expect when you’re Expecting: The Role of Unexpectedness in Computationally Evaluating Creativity. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[8] Guerrero Román, I. &  Pérez y Pérez, R. (2014) Social Mexica: A Computer Model for Social Norms in Narratives. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[9] Kantosalo, A., Toivanen, J. M., Xiao, P., & Toivonen, H. (2014) From Isolation to Involvement: Adapting Machine Creativity Software to Support Human-Computer Co-Creation. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[10] Liapis, A., Yannakakis, G. N., & Togelius J. (2014) Computational Game Creativity. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[11] Norton, D., Heath, D. & Ventura, D. (2014) Autonomously Managing Competing Objectives to Improve the Creation and Curation of Artifacts. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[12] O’Donoghue, D. P.,  Power, J., O’Briain, S., Dong, F., Mooney, A., Hurley, D.,  Abgaz, Y., & Markham, C. (2014) Can a Computationally Creative System Create Itself? Creative Artefacts and Creative Processes. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[13] Pachet, F. & Roy, P. (2014) Non-Conformant Harmonization: The Real Book in the Style of Take 6. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[14] Pérez y Pérez, R. (2014) The Three Layers Evaluation Model for Computer-Generated Plots. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[15] Toivanen, J. M., Gross, O., & Toivonen, H. The Officer Is Taller Than You, Who Race Yourself! Using Document Specific Word Associations in Poetry Generation 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[16] Tubb, R. & Dixon, S. (2014) A Four Strategy Model of Creative Parameter Space Interaction. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

[17] Veale, T. (2014) Coming Good and Breaking Bad: Generating Transformative Character Arcs For Use in Compelling Stories. 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity

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The CS Blog Task Force

Paba is a PhD student in Ubiquitous Interaction Group (UIx group) at
HIIT, CS Department of UH. Her research focus is on developing
interaction models to predict user interests and information-needs in
exploratory search.


Aaron is doing his PhD in the NODES group at the CS department. His research focuses on mobile computing and energy efficient design for multi-interfaced mobile devices.


Ella is a PhD student in the Nodes group. She is interested in e.g. distributed algorithms, real-life data mining, clouds and ubiquitous computing.


Giulio is a Professor at the CS department. His area is Human-Computer Interaction. For more information, please find his homepage here


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31.08.2015 - 15:10

The Department of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki has a tradition of annual summer trip for all the staff members. This year, the TKTL staff members are invited to take a boat trip on J. L. Runeberg and spent a beautiful day in Porvoo.

For the memory, we share a set of photos contributed by Arto Wikla and Frans Ojala:

10.08.2015 - 12:00

by Kumaripaba Athukorala

Recently I got my first, first authored journal article accepted to the Journal of Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST for short). I thought of sharing what I learnt from the journal article writing process while my experience is still fresh.

Some of the lessons might be specific to the JASIST journal. However, I generalized the details so that this article is useful to anyone.

30.12.2014 - 13:34

By Teemu Roos

After conferring with senior professors P. Myllymäki and J. Paakki, we get some perspectives into the main issues at (or with) the department over the years. The discussions are based on the CS department Strategy Seminar of 2014.

02.12.2014 - 17:13

by Leena Salmela

Since 2009 when I came to work at the department I have been involved with the Glanville fritillary genome project. In this blog post I will tell about my experiences in the project.

05.11.2014 - 00:56

Lauri Suomalainen

On October 27th, Juhani, Lirim, Ashwin and I set forth to 3rd OpenStackFin User Group meetup. The event is a get-together for Openstack enthusiasts and experts in Finland. Its main goal is to gather like-minded people to share insights and experiences about OpenStack. The event was held in the evening at the restaurant Kaarle XII. Ashwin and I were first time aboard, while both Juhani and Lirim have attended the previous two meetups. So far the meetups have been organized once every six months. We arrived to the scene around four o’clock and there were already a few dozen people gathered to enjoy food, snacks and beverages.

21.10.2014 - 13:50

Interaction Lab is initiated and founded by Ubiquitous Interaction research group in 2014 for providing a space where novel interaction in between human, computer, and the physical environment can be developed and experimented.

28.09.2014 - 17:51

by Anna Kantosalo

Computational creativity is a new and hot topic in computer science. This year I had a wonderful opportunity to participate in the International Conference for Computational Creativity (ICCC) at the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana and present my first academic paper for the Discovery Research Group. The great community and fascinating topics of the conference made me want to share the highlights of my first conference experience with all of you!

07.09.2014 - 22:22

by Juhani Toivonen and Lirim Osmani

The European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) is a federation of research organisations that provide computational resources and services to European researchers and their partners around the world. It consists of National Grid Initiatives, one of which is in Finland (http://fgi.csc.fi) and is managed by an organisation called EGI.eu.

09.04.2014 - 12:53

by Sini, local member of the international branch in the department well-being group

24.01.2014 - 22:05

By Carolina Lindqvist

20.12.2013 - 13:51

On Monday the 16th of December 2013, NODES research group organized the traditional NODES/KOPS-glögi before the Christmas holiday. (Glögi translates to 'mulled wine', and is a popular red spicy drink enjoyed around Christmas time.)

10.12.2013 - 14:35
By: Ella Peltonen and Tiina Niklander
07.11.2013 - 18:59

by Antti-Pekka Tuovinen

16.10.2013 - 22:04

by Kalle Viiri


12.09.2013 - 01:41

by Aino Sipari

Our Kumpula club buddy program is recruiting new buddies!

29.08.2013 - 15:34

Have you ever been worried about you mobile phone's or tablet's energy consumption? Do you need to charge your device every night, perhaps even in the middle of the day? It is generally known that large screens and continuous network connections eat our phones' battery faster than we really want. Our goal in the Carat project is to survey and analyze what else could be going bad in our phones' matters.

01.07.2013 - 12:39

The national yearly Computer Science event (Tietojenkäsittelytieteen päivät) is the main event of the Finnish Society for Computer Science (TKTS). The society hands out two awards every year, the best MSc thesis of the year, and the best PhD thesis, which is awarded by The Finnish Information Processing Association, FIPA (TTL in Finnish). This year the PhD thesis award was granted to Jouni Siren from our department, for his thesis "Compressed Full-Text Indexes for Highly Repetitive Collections". Congratulations, Jouni!

04.06.2013 - 15:03

Interview with Tiina Niklander

Question 1: What's your role in the union? Please introduce yourself and if possible, the current status at department.

I am a university instructor at the department. In addition to giving courses and guiding thesis a lot of my work at the department is related to guiding study planning of Networking and Services students. I also coordinate the international master's studies at the whole department.

I have been one of the shop stewards at the university for several years.  

08.05.2013 - 23:32

In early March, the Department of Computer Science and Innofactor organized a week-long Windows Azure CodeCamp for students. The course was held 1-11.3.2013, during which the students were asked to produce small-scale applications utilizing the Windows Azure platform - Microsoft's cloud computing platform for building, deploying and managing applications and services, like Amazon's AWS or the Google App Engine.

05.04.2013 - 14:15

Dear readers, this is the second interview of our TKTL group leader series. The goal is to provide an open forum for group leaders to present their latest research development, activities in teaching, project work opportunities, and general comments about our department. This time, we interviewed Prof. Giulio Jaccuci, who is leading the Ubiquitous Interaction (UiX) group.

31.01.2013 - 15:04

Prof. Jussi Kangasharju started a blog to chronicle his sabbatical year - first 5 months in Korea, then 5 months in the Bay Area in the US. He comments, "It is partly intended to show people in our department that going abroad is not a scary thing." We repost here his latest blog entry about the winter experience in Korea. For further interesting stories, check out his blog.

18.12.2012 - 14:56

Sasu Tarkoma

This has been a busy year for the networking and services specialization line and the NODES research community at the Department.  We have made the headlines from rooftop greenhouses to energy-optimising mobile apps and squeeze-based smartphones.  We should not forget the best paper awards and other mentions either. We did well in the university research assessment exercise as well. We have also strengthened the industry connections and the recent Internet of Things (IoT) research program is one example of this.

18.12.2012 - 14:42

At the end of November 2012, the department of computer science threw its Christmas party in "Berghyddan", an old building in the area where Helsinki was originally founded.

24.10.2012 - 16:13

In this month's NODES Pizza Seminar, postdoctoral researcher Suzan Bayhan from HIIT gave a presentation about "Energy Efficiency in Cognitive Radio Networks". In brief, a cognitive radio node is capable of changing its communication frequency in order to better take advantage of underutilized parts of the radio spectrum.

24.09.2012 - 18:04

On September 17th, the well-being group and the department invited our international staff for a casual coffee break for the start of the new semester.

20.06.2012 - 11:03

On a beautiful summer day, our department invited staff members to the idyllic located villages of Billnäs and Fiskars, which is about 80 km west of Helsinki, famous for their long tradition of iron works.

14.03.2012 - 20:13

by Jussi Kangasharju

(Instead of a literal translation, I've chosen to translate the meaning of the title. As the most astute of you may have already noticed, the title is not in English, but in fact in Italian and recapitulates the words of Italian Coast Guard Captain De Falco when "encouraging" Captain Schettino, the captain of the sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia, to go back on board the ship to coordinate the rescue. The intended meaning is: "Stop whining and start doing your job!")

This article is mainly me venting my frustration, since over the past year or so, I've noticed that the laziness and general lack of effort have reached completely unexplored peaks. Although this article is only my personal opinion, in the discussions with many other teachers in the department, I've heard very similar experiences on their part as well.

08.03.2012 - 12:28

by Ella Peltonen

This year the Department's Strategy seminar was organized from 1st to 2nd March 2012 in Hotel Haikko Manor near the city of Porvoo. Beautiful Haikko is known for a place of fabulous summer weddings, but it seems to be also a practical conference centre and a nice small spa. And so our two strategy days contained both working and relaxation.

08.03.2012 - 12:25

by Jussi Kangasharju

For two years, my group has conducted research on data center cooling optimizations, and as part of that work, we have had computers out on the roof terrace of Exactum for over 2 years, in all sorts of enclosures. For a full recap of our research, please see Mikko's excellent blog (which also discusses washing of keyboards in a dishwasher).

14.02.2012 - 15:13

Dear readers, the interview series of TKTL group leaders is making its debut today! The goal of the series is to provide an open forum for research group leaders to present their latest research developments, activities in teaching, project work opportunities, and general comments about our department.

02.01.2012 - 17:34

by Esther Galbrun

13.12.2011 - 17:52

by Oskar Gross

Autumn school on Computational Creativity was held in Porvoo from 7th till 11th of November. It is interesting to note that it was a landmark in the field of computational creativity, as it was apparently the first "school" dedicated on this topic. Moreover, the lectures were given by the leading researchers in the respective field.

09.11.2011 - 15:54

In autumn 2010 a Finnish course was organized in Kumpula for the staff of the Computer Science Department. After one year, we are interested in how the attendees feel about the course and if there is a demand for organizing such a course again.

Here are the comments from some of last years attendees:

"Overall I found the Finnish course very useful. Unfortunately I am spending just one year here in Finland, so I did not have a lot of time to study and practice what I learnt :)

17.10.2011 - 11:20

by Stefan Schönauer

Throughout my career the question of how to improve the internal communication and collaboration has been a topic at every institution I worked for. Here I present some of my thoughts on the topic, which are based on personal experience and discussions with several people.

26.09.2011 - 12:14

The new university year has just begun. It is an exciting time for our fresh Master's students as well as senior ones, both aiming at obtaining their MSc degree from the CS department. To provide an insight into the international part of the Master's students, we start from the recruitment statistics of new students, and then share with you five fascinating stories.

05.09.2011 - 14:36

by Laura Langohr

Last October I headed to Ljubljana, Slovenia, for half a year's research visit. Sitting in the airplane I remembered colleagues and friends back in Helsinki wondering about my plan to take a Slovene course. Even though I would stay only six months I wanted to learn some Slovene, a language only 2 million people speak.

15.08.2011 - 11:23

By Liang Wang

In the early morning on April 26, Prof. Kangasharju, Tiina and I started our journey from Helsinki to Petrozavodsk. The whole journey was quite pleasant thanks to the sunny weather. After 12 hours, we reached our destination – Petrozavodsk, a quiet and lovely small town in western Russia. Even though it was not our first visit there, it was the first time we visited Petrozovadsk in spring. Everything looked so fresh and full of vigor compared with my memory of last winter.

27.07.2011 - 12:14

We consulted a few staff members and students what they expect from this blog.

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