Autonomic Software Engineering for online cultural experiences

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Computing Department


This project is about exploiting the predominance of social networking using autonomic software agents to enrich, encourage and enliven engagement with online cultural artefacts such as from a museum or a gallery. With the current problems in the European financial debt, many cultural institutions are planning to shorten the length that visitors can physically enter. In the UK for example we have heard of plans that the British Museum will close earlier and possibly shut down completely for one day a week because of the massive cuts in funding that were presented in the UK Chancellors speech detailing reduction in money for the cultural sector. The basic idea is to have your friends, museums, art galleries and theatres all in your pocket through your handheld device.
In this project we will harness the power of autonomic agents that work on behalf of human users in an infrastructure that allows for these agents to communicate and negotiate on behalf of their human users to facilitate a collective and social experience of online cultural visits. For example, we could imagine a scenario where 4 students are visiting an art museum with the desire to purchase something (a print or a physical copy of an artefact for example) for a friend. They would wish to be able negotiate about what to see or experience online, what additional information they want to consider, what comments from what previous visitors over any commentary they individually or collectively want to leave for others and, eventually, over what they collectively choose to purchase for their friend.
We are concerned with the fundamental question of building autonomic agents that can represent their users needs, argue and negotiate on behalf of their users with other software and human agents, maintain models of the other autonomic agents in the system and proactively develop plans and scenarios for their human counterparts. In order for autonomic agents to interact in open systems such as those we are describing we will use the BDI agent architecture (arguably the most important symbolic agent architecture of the last 20 years) on a well-developed infrastructure (called electronic institutions) that facilitates autonomic agent interaction.
In short we believe BDI architectures represent the stronger and best-developed software engineering device for building autonomic agents, that electronic institutions is the best developed infrastructure for supporting the interaction of autonomous interaction, and that the idea of enabling richer social exploration of cultural artefacts online is a timely and critical case study to address.

Planned Impact

We aim at having impact in the ICT community by overcoming the scalability problems that electronic institution infrastructures currently existing due to their centralised architecture.
The new p2p distributed architecture will allow for the creation of autonomic communities of agents and components that will enact institutions in a distributed way and that will be resilient to the failure of one of the agents in the institution. It will provide capabilities to self- modify and adapt to changing environments. Moreover, P2P open source software is a democratic weapon as there are almost no barriers to access the technology. To go further in this direction we'll developed a p2p node architecture that can run on mobile devices like iphones and iPads.
Also, the application of a BDI approach to a realistic scenario may have a significant impact on the acceptance of cognitive oriented approaches to the development of autonomic software. On the other hand, it will pioneer a different type of consumption of culture facilitating its social aspects. This is particularly important when cultural content providers (e.g. museums) are suffering severe cuts in their budgets and urgently require new forms of offering their services but at a lower cost. The success of social software solutions may play in our favour by making easier the acceptance of a social solution for cultural consumption. And indirectly, our solution may illustrate the good and positive aspects of social relationships over Internet that are somehow criticised by certain groups of opinion. ACE can provide the infrastructure to make all this possible.


The results of the project will be disseminated by presentations, publications, participation in workshops, and a Web page. We will target the following audience: scientists, Industry and the general public. Moreover, the project will seek for potential venues of exploitation of the results.


The ACE researchers will participate in international conferences and workshops in the field of multiagent systems, Web services, mobile computing and artificial intelligence. An important aspect of our presentations will be to meet and to discuss the results with other researchers from the same or related fields. While most presentations will be held in research oriented workshops and conferences, we will also present our results on more application-oriented workshops and conferences attended by industry.


Conference papers and journal articles will be generated during the entire project, according to the progress of work. The members of the consortium have regularly published, and intend to continue doing so, in the best scientific journals and the proceedings of major international conferences in the area. We also anticipate the possibility of submitting papers that result from the execution of the case study to events that are more oriented to the application area studied.

Presentation on the Web.

General information as well as all non-confidential results, i.e., papers, presentations, course material, and software, will be published on a Web server to allow easy access for researchers, interested companies, institutions, and the general public. The homepage will be set up within one month after the project started and will be continuously updated.


Will be carried out involving on the one hand teaching and research activities within the academic community offering new research opportunities for Ph.D. students. On the other hand the case study will be a first step to foster technology transfer (research results, as well as expertise and know-how) from academy to the industrial community. The consortium expects to exploit the project results by helping create a community and by running an open-source software development project.
Description We developed a platform based on BDI logic and electronic institutions which enables users to come together and view images collaboratively and select them through a voting mechanism to be put into a collection.

This extended the field in BDI logics for shared experience, in the development of a P2P infrastructure to support the implementation of systems for social shared experience, and in applying participatory design techniques to develop interfaces that enables engaged and intuitive socially cultural experience for users
Exploitation Route The IIIA institute in Barcelona worked for some months trying to develop a spin out company based on the software but in the end that do not go ahead.

The exhibitions we held in London (at Goldsmiths and other venues in Lewisham including at the Horniman museum) including hundreds of users in several events.

The research led us to writing and winning the European FP7 project PRAISE which was also around collaborative experiences but in learning (music especially). The users of system include London Chamber Orchestra outreach programme in schools, courses on course with thousands of active students, Music and creative computing courses at Goldsmiths, museum of sound project with Matthew Herbert, Leeds College of Music Students, University of Sussex. The project was given an "outstanding" award in its final review and the company Museifi ( has been spun out which is a platform for sharing online learning experiences. The technologies developed in ACE were the foundation for the PRAISE project.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education

Description The findings were uses in several cultural situations in Spain and UK. In the UK we had a week-long exhibition at the Horniman Museum using our technologies with several hundred users. Details of the case-studies were published in CHI for example. This video was selected for the CHI 2013 conference and is also available on you tube:
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education
Impact Types Cultural

Description Practice and Performance Analysis Inspiring Social Education (FP7-ICT-2011-8)
Amount € 615,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 318770 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 08/2012 
End 09/2015
Description One week exhibition using the technology at the Horniman Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Around several hundred visitors to the Horniman Museum in South London used our software to annotate and label a series of images held by the museum to develop a shared an annotated collection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012