Aesthetic Computing

The Aesthetic Computing group, led by Fiona Carroll combines two main areas: Art and Computing.

The research group accommodates all applications of aesthetics to computing. These can include the emotional and sensational levels of interactions with technologies/ digital interfaces (i.e. aesthetic response to interactions); the integration of artistic methods to the design and development of computing experiences (i.e. aesthetic visualizations etc.); the art of creative coding, leveraging computer programs and data structures to elegant and engagingly innovative levels.


Good design has always been concerned with the whole experience of interaction. Although most people think that design is about what we see – form, shape, proportion, colour and finish – the aesthetic value comes from the whole experience, including gesture and ritual, what we feel and hear perhaps even what we taste and smell (Moggridge, 1999, p.17).

Fiona Carroll’s interest lies in exploring the potential of aesthetics in the creation of engaging user experiences (UX). During her PhD research (2008), she performed a number of empirical studies to investigate both the application and role of aesthetics in photorealistic VR environments to enhance the user’s experience. Her current research aims to explore the science of the aesthetic experience through behavioural and neural studies to reach a deeper understanding of the subject. She envisions that this will influence the design for desired UX experiences. Being able to accurately describe user’s aesthetic judgments as well as knowing the causes (objective and subjective) and reasons for those judgments will play a very important role in furthering UX design.

Areas of current research include:

Fiona Carroll is collaborating with Cropper and Webb (Melbourne University, Australia) to build a more sophisticated understanding of the scientific makeup of the aesthetic response. This research will promote a generation of new and exciting innovations for UX design around the topic of aesthetic response particularly in relation to colour combination, preferences and insight (i.e. ‘aha’ experience). The collaboration aims to explore but also connect existing behavioural research on aesthetic preferences with the growing field of neuroaesthetics. In detail, the goal is to understand how the neural processes might correlate with the behavioural processes of aesthetic response.

Fiona Carroll and Rita Kop’s (Yorkville University, Canada) research partnership within the field of online learning has recently started to explore the importance of the aesthetic and the visual in the design and development of the learning experience. Their recent article Colouring the gaps in Technology Enhanced Learning: Aesthetics and the visual in learning, was published in the 2016 Special Issue on Visual Aspects in Technology Enhanced Learning, International Journal of Distance Education Technologies. This research is ongoing.

Fiona Carroll is collaborating with Alice Entwistle (USW), Inga Burrows (USW), Mark Ware (USW) and Nathan Thomas (USW) on a project to transform the visitor experience of Cardiff’s newest and most unusual park. The objective is to transform an outdoor environment into a fully inclusive and more aesthetically exciting visitor attraction. Carroll is interested in exploring the link between the aesthetic and the ‘inclusive’ experience; Brain computer interface (BCI) technologies will be used to more deeply explore the aesthetic engagement of users within the park.

KESS PhD student Nick Jones under the supervision of Fiona Carroll and Daniel Cunliffe is working with the multinational company CGI, to explore how neuroaesthetics might inform the design of their online services. The project will investigate how aesthetics might be used to shape and influence the user behaviour and the digital customer experience.

Selected publications

Full list of publications

Journal Papers

Carroll, F. & Kop, R. (2016). Colouring the gaps in Technology Enhanced Learning: Aesthetics and the visual in learning, in Special Issue on Visual Aspects in Technology. Enhanced Learning, International Journal of Distance Education Technologies.

Lewis, R. and F. Carroll (2016) ‘Creating Seating Plans: A Practical Application’. Journal of the Operational Research Society, advance online publication, April 27, doi:10.1057/jors.2016.34.

Carroll, F., Kop, R., Thomas. N. (2015). From books to ebooks: A new chapter for learning. In Open Education Europe, eLearning Papers, Occasional Paper 15th April 2015, Retrieved from http://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/en/node/163457

Carroll, F.& Lewis, R. ( 2013) The “engaged” interaction: important considerations for the HCI design and development of a web application for solving a complex combinatorial optimization problem. World Journal of Computer Application and Technology 1(3), pp. 75-82.

Carroll, F., Jenkins, A., Woodward, C., Kop, R. & Jenkins, E. (2012). “Exploring How Social Media Can Enhance the Teaching of Action Research”, Action Research Journal Volume 10 Issue 2, June 2012, DOI: 10.1177/1476750311424945

Kop, R. & Carroll, F. (2011). “Cloud computing: Learning from a Massive Open Online Course on how to enhance creativity in learning”, European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.

Carroll, F. & Kop, R. (2011). “A Learning, Research and Development Framework to Design for a Holistic Learning Experience”, E-Learning and Digital Media Journal. ISSN 2042-7530.

Carroll, F. (2010). “Designing (for) experiences in photorealistic VR environments”, New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, vol 16, pp. 181-194.

Benyon D., Smyth, M., McCall, R., ONeill, S. & Carroll, F. (2006). “The Place Probe: Exploring a Sense of Place in Real and Virtual Environments”. Presence Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, vol. 15(6), pp.668-687.

McCall, R., ONeill, S., Carroll F., Benyon, D. & Smyth, M. (2005). “Responsive Environments, Place and Presence”. Psychnology Journal, vol. 3(1), pp. 34-74.

Book Chapters

Smyth, M., Benyon, D., McCall, R., O’Neill, S., and Carroll, F. (2015). Patterns (2015). “Patterns of Place: An Integrated Approach for the Design and Evaluation of Real and Virtual Environments.,” in Immersed in Media: TelepresenceTheory, Measurement and Technology, eds F. Biocca, J. Freeman, W. IJsselsteijn,
M. Lombard, and R. J. Schaevitz (New York, NY: Springer), 187–235. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-10190-3_9

Carroll, F. (2011). “Exploring past trends and current challenges of human computer interaction (HCI) design: What does this mean for the design of virtual environments?” In B. H. Khan (Ed.), User Interface Design for Virtual Environments: Challenges and Advances. Hershey, PA: IGI Publishing.

Carroll, F. (2008). “The Spatial Development of the Visual-Narrative from Prehistoric Cave Paintings to Computer Games”. In P. Turner et al. (Eds.), Exploration of Space, Technology, and Spatiality: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Springer.

Turner, P. Turner, S. Carroll, F. (2005). “The Tourist Gaze: Contextualising Virtual Environments”. In P Turner et al. (eds.), Spaces, Spatiality and Technology. Springer.

Carroll, F., Smyth, M. & Dryden, L. (2004). “Visual-Narrative and Virtual Reality”. In Book of Selected Readings: The International Association of Visual Literacy. IVLA, Johannesburg, South Africa. pp. 63 -73

Conference/ Workshop Papers

Carroll, F., Kop, R., Thomas, N. and Dunning, R. (2015).Transformation: An initial study into the alignment of mobile interaction and language learning. MCCSIS, Multi-conference of computer science and Information systems, 9th International Conference on e-Learning, 21 – 24 July 2015, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain

Carroll, F., Thomas, N. & Ware, M. (2013). The Development An Interactive Ibook Application To Harness The Next Generation Of ‘Computer Architecture’ Educational Experiences. In Proceedings: WORLDCOMP’13- The 9th International Conference on Frontiers in Education: Computer Science and Computer Engineering, July 22-25, 2013, USA.

Thomas, N., Carroll, F., Kop, R. & Stocking, S. (2012). iBook learning experience: the challenge of teaching computer architecture to first year university students. In Proceedings: WORLDCOMP’12- The 2012 World Congress in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Applied Computing, July 16-19, 2012, USA.

Carroll, F. (2009). Aesthetic-Interaction: Exploring the Importance of the Visual Aesthetic in the Creation of Engaging Photorealistic VR Environments. In Proceedings: Theory and Practice of Computer Graphics, Cardiff University, 19th June. Geneve: Eurographics Association. pp.181-188.

Carroll, F. & Kop, R. & Woodward, C. (2008). Sowing the Seeds of Learner Autonomy: Transforming the VLE into a Third Place through the use of Web 2.0 Tools. In ECEL-European Conference on e-Learning, University of Cyprus, Cyprus, 6-7 November 2008. pp. 152-160.

Carroll, F. & Robinson, J. & Woodward, C. (2008). A New Presence-Learning Tool to Enhance the Learning Experience. In HCI workshop for Technology Enhanced Learning, John Moore University, Liverpool, 1-5 September 2008.

Kop, R., Woodward, C. & Carroll, F. (2008). Get your Hands Dirty: Personlisation for whom?. Digital Learning: Repurposing Education, Plymouth E-learning Conference, Plymouth University, 4 April 2008.

Woodward, C., Kop, R., & Carroll, F. (2007).Which side of the wall are you on? At the 14th International Conference of the Association for Learning Technology, ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control, Learning Technology for the Social Network Generation, Nottingham, UK, 4-6 September 2007.

Carroll, F., Smyth, M. & Dryden, L. (2005). Investigating the Creation of Visually Engaging Experiences in Virtual Reality Environments. In Proceedings: Edesigns in Art and Design Education. University of the Arts, London.

Carroll, F. (2005). Developing a Visual-Narrative Model to Enhance Engagement in a Virtual Reality Environment. In Proceedings: The 19th British HCI Group Annual Conference. Napier University, Edinburgh.

Carroll, F. (2005). Engagement and Creativity in Virtual Environments. In HCI workshop, Napier University, Edinburgh, 5-9th September.

McCall, R. ONeill, S. and Carroll, F. (2004). Measuring Presence in Virtual Environments. In Conference on Human-Factors in Computing: CHI 2004. Vienna, Austria: Association of Computing Machinery.

McCall, R. ONeill, S. Carroll, F. and Benyon, D. (2004). The Presence Probe. In, Workshop on Designing and Evaluating Virtual Reality Systems. University of Notthingham, UK.

McCall, R., ONeill, S., Smyth, M., Benyon, D. & Carroll, F.(2004). A Method for Designing Virtual Places. In Presence 2004. Valencia, Spain.

Carroll, F. (2004). Image, Narrative and VR Space. In Proceedings: Spaces, Spatiality and Technology Workshop, Edinburgh, Scotland.

ONeill, S. McCall, R. and Carroll, F. (2004). Measuring Presence in Virtual Environments (Video). Conference on Human Factors in Computing 2004: CHI2004, Vienna, Austria, CD.

Turner, P. McGregor, I. Turner, S. and Carroll, F. (2003). Evaluating Soundscapes as a Means of Creating a Sense of Place. In Brazil, E & Shinn-Cunningham, B (Eds), ICAD, pp. 148-151. Boston University Publications Department.

Turner, S. Turner, P. Carroll, F. ONeill, S., Benyon, D. McCall, R. and Smyth, M. (2003). Re-creating the Botanics: towards a sense of place in virtual environments. Paper presented at 3rd UK Conference of the Environmental Psychology Network.