Jennifer Sykes

jen

Position

Enrichment Student

Cohort year

2022

Bio

Jen Sykes is an artist, designer and lecturer based in Glasgow, Scotland. Having graduated from the MFA in Computational Arts at Goldsmiths University of London in 2012, her work spans creative computing, sculpture and electronic hardware designs often connecting the physical analog and digital worlds. Her PhD research at the Creative Coding Institute, UAL, London focuses on communicating errors and mistakes to creative practitioners exploring computer programming as a material for creative expression. 

Her research has led her to develop her own circuits and hardware as well as frequently fabricating sensors, interfaces and interactive installations for other artists and designers. Alongside her own practice she is often commissioned to fabricate work for other artists and designers. Recent commissions include the BBC, Glasgow International Visual Art Festival, Sonica Festival and Cryptic. 

Alongside Jen’s research she is a lecturer in Physical Computing and Creative Coding, teaching internationally at the Glasgow School of Art, The Danish Royal Academy of Art and Design and Umeå Institute of Design, Sweden. 

Research interests

Creative Coding has become a popular material used within the Studio-based model of education in Art and Design Schools. This exploratory material approach to the use of technology provides important potential for creative expression and pathways within creative industries for experiential approaches. However, there still remains a friction in how a materials, originating from didactic modes of delivery, can be translated to creative practices where there is an emphasis on exploration, reflection and process.
Often, we approach introductory methods of understanding programming by following step by step instructions or tutorials. Whilst these methods are beneficial in their early principles there remains a steep learning curve when transitioning to individually driven projects. It is through the experience of making mistakes and problem solving that provides us with self sufficiency and creative agency. When transitioning from a predominantly screen-based exploration of computer code to electronic physical components, beginners are faced with three areas to troubleshoot; the software, the hardware, and the bridging of the two together. The research seeks to question how the bridge between software and hardware can be communicated more effectively for students in an Art School environment?

For the past year Jen Sykes has continued her practice-based research focusing on how we can explore methods of teaching mistakes in Creative Coding through working with Functional Errors. A Functional Error is defined as as a piece of code that compiles without error in software yet it results in a different kinetic or graphical output than conceptually desired. A Functional Error is also the result of a gap in understanding between established and new creative disciplines and can often be difficult to identify through the use of different descriptive language around each subject area.

This research aims to produce tangible tools focusing on three key areas; feedback, exploration and augmentation. An objective of the physical, educational prototypes is to apply machine learning programming methods in capturing complex, data-driven user input from existing hardware. In doing so, the tools will provide students with alternative, Artificially Intelligent modes of engaging with creative coding programming environments. Each practical prototype seeks to highlight and educate users as to how to identify common Functional Errors and in turn aims to provide more immediate feedback, legibility and independence to students.