Aesthetic Automata: Synthesis and Simulation of Aesthetic Behaviour in Cellular Automata

Javaheri Javid, Mohammad Ali. 2019. Aesthetic Automata: Synthesis and Simulation of Aesthetic Behaviour in Cellular Automata. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis addresses the computational notion of aesthetics in the framework of multistate two-dimensional cellular automata (2D CA). The measure of complexity is a core concept in computational approaches to aesthetics. Shannon's information theory provided an objective measure of complexity, which led to the emergence of various informational theories of aesthetics. However, entropy fails to take into account the spatial characteristics of 2D patterns; these characteristics are fundamental in addressing the aesthetic problem, in general, and of CA-generated patterns, in particular. This thesis proposes two empirically evaluated alternative measures of complexity, taking into account the spatial characteristics of 2D patterns and experimental studies on human aesthetic perception in the visual domain. The measures are extended to robustly quantify the complexity of multi-state 2D CA-generated patterns.

The first model, spatial complexity, is based on the probabilistic spatial distribution of homogeneous/heterogeneous neighbouring cells over the lattice of a multi-state 2D cellular automaton. The second model is based on algorithmic information theory (Kolmogorov complexity) which is extended to estimate the complexity of 2D patterns. The spatial complexity measure presents performance advantage over information-theoretic models, specifically in discriminating symmetries and the orientation in CA-generated patterns, enabling more accurate measurement of complexity in relation to aesthetic evaluations of 2D patterns.

A series of experimental stimuli with various structural characteristics and levels of complexity were generated by seeding 3-state 2D CA with different initial configurations for psychological experiments. The results of experimentation demonstrate the presence of correlation between spatial complexity measures and aesthetic judgements of experimental stimuli. The same results were obtained for the estimations of Kolmogorov complexity of experimental stimuli.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Cellular automata, computational aesthetics, spatial complexity, kolmogorov complexity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 November 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Dec 2019 12:42

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 22:54


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