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Roger Dean, Tracey Nicholls, and Rebecca Caines

Towards an Ethos of Improvisation: A Discussion with Roger Dean, Tracey Nicholls, and Rebecca Caines

For this month’s Oral History we travel back to 2009 for a vibrant discussion between Roger Dean, Tracey Nicholls, and Rebecca Caines. Dr. Benjamin Authers facilitates a discussion with the three aforementioned ICASP researchers who cover a range of topics related to improvisation and social policy. Short researcher biographies are found below, followed by the interview.


Roger Dean is a composer/improviser, and a research professor in music cognition and computation at the MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney. He founded and directs the ensemble austraLYSIS. His creative work is on thirty commercial audio cds, and he has released many digital intermedia pieces. His 400 research publications include seven humanities books. Previously he was CEO of the Heart Research Institute, Sydney and then vice-chancellor and president of the University of Canberra.

Dr. Tracey Nicholls is an assistant professor of Philosophy at Lewis University, and co-director of the Women’s Studies Program. She completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship with ICASP in the 2009-2010 year based out of the Centre de Recherche en Éthique de l’Université de Montréal. Dr. Nicholls has recently published a book entitled: An Ethics of Improvisation: Aesthetic Possibilities for a Political Future.

Dr. Rebecca Caines is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist and scholar. Her artistic practice, teaching and research work crosses between creative technologies (including sound art, new media, and augmentation), contemporary performance and improvisation, site-specific art practices, and community-engaged art. She is currently playing a lead role in developing the new Creative Technologies area at the University of Regina, which is an exciting initiative crossing between Fine Arts, Computer Science and Engineering. She also convenes the Faculty research group REACT (Research into Art and Creative Technology) and coordinates the Arduino and Technology Crafting Group, a weekly informal drop-in working group for practical technology-based art projects open to Faculty and students. She has published internationally, including a number of journal articles and book chapters and is currently completing a co-edited book on improvisation entitled Spontaneous Acts: The Improvisation Studies Reader, with Ajay Heble for Routledge.

Dr. Benjamin Authers is currently is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow with Professor Hilary Charlesworth’s Australian Research Council Laureate Project, “Strengthening the International Human Rights System: Rights, Regulation and Ritualism.” His research examines how a variety of literary, legal, and political texts engage with the promises of human rights and humanitarianism, as well as the possibilities presented by cultural production for strengthening rights systems. At the time of the interview he held the Grant Notley Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta.


Full transcript available here.

We’ll all be more innovative if we participate in collaborative webs and share more openly. Creativity is always a collaboration and it’s always a form of improvisation, written large in the social world.

– Keith Sawyer