Pherographia in Leonardo Journal

My paper «Pherographia: Drawing by Ants», published  last April at Leonard Journal, vol. 43 (2), is now available at my webpage, here. The paper was written two years ago, when I was still reflecting on how to integrate a swarm intelligence system that Ramos and Almeida [1] devised after the seminal model by Chialvo and Milona  [2] on my photographic body-of-work (I later contributed to speed up the process, by adding a reproduction scheme to the model [3], and, somehow, «our» KANTS algorithm [4, 5] was also inspired by Ramos and Almeida’s paper). By then I was mainly interested in the similarities between pherographia –  the term coined to describe the process – and photographia (independently of being a system that may detect the edges of photos, as you may notice if you read the paper, which is not about the model itself, but about its potential as an artistic tool, about artificial art, and the metaphors that may inspired creative artwork), based on my experience as a photographer and as a black-and-white darkroom user. In addition, I tried to contextualize my experiments and works in the artificial art trend (I think I had better results on later essays on the theme of art and science, that you may find in my webpage). This is the abstract of Leonardo’s paper:

This paper addresses the hypothetical relationship of Photography and the so-called pheromone maps created by an Artificial Life system that simulates an ant colony and evolves it on monochromatic images. Pheromone — the substance used by ants to communicate via the environment — is also simulated, and, from the communication and interaction of the swarm with the environment (image), results a kind of drawing made with the artificial pheromone. Since ants are able to detect the edges of the image, the outcome is a sketch that resembles the original picture, like the old camera obscura’s drawings. The term Pherographia — meaning drawing with pheromone — arises from the analogy with camera obscura and Photography but the text goes beyond the metaphorical links between Pherographia and Photographia and explores the observable traits shared by the photographic process and the swarm’s pheromone maps. The theme is discussed within the emergent Artificial Art research field and recent theoretical advances that link Swarm Intelligence and cognitive sciences are also addressed.

In the last two years I have created some artwork based on the swarm model (namelly, Timor Mortis Conturbat Me and The Horse and the Ants). This artwork has been exhibited to an heterogeneous audience. I expect to show soon a report on these efforts.

[1] V. Ramos, F. Almeida, “Artificial Ant Colonies in Digital Image Habitats A Mass Behaviour Effect Study on Pattern Recognition”, Marco Dorigo, Martin Middendoff and Thomas Suetzle (Eds.), Proceedings 2nd International Workshop on Ant Algorithms, pp. 113-116 (2000).

[2] D. Chialvo, M. Milonas, “How Swarms Build Cognitive Maps”, Luc Steels (Ed.), The Biology and Technology of Intelligent Autonomous Agents, No. 144, NATO ASI Series, pp. 439-450 (1995).

[3] C. M. Fernandes, V. Ramos, A. C. Rosa, “Self-Regulated Artificial Ant Colonies on Digital Image Habitats”, International Journal of Lateral Computing Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 1-8 (2005).

[4] A. Mora, C. M. Fernandes, J.-J. Merelo, V. Ramos, J. L. J. Laredo, “KohonAnts. A Self-Organizing Ant Algorithm for Clustering and Pattern Classification”, Proceedings of the XI Artificial Life Conference, pp. 428-435 (2008).

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Carlos M. Fernandes was born in Luanda in 1973 and lives in between Lisbon, Portugal, and Granada, Spain. He graduated (Technical University of Lisbon, 1998) in Electrotechnics Engineering and owns a master degree in the same field since 2002 (Technical University of Lisbon). He is currently pursuing a Ph.d. on Bio-inspired Computing. From 2001 to 2005 he was an assistant at Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal. (He is also a photographer and photography teacher.) Bio-inspired Computing is his major field of research: Genetic Algorithms, Estimation of Distribution Algorithms, Ant Colony Optimization, Particle Swarm Optimization and other metaheuristics. He is particularly interested in the hybridization of Bio-inspired Computing techniques with Self-Organization, Self-Organized Criticality Models and diversity maintenance strategies. In the present, Dynamic Optimization Problems are his mains target for applying such techniques. website: email:

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