Sonic Instruments as Scientific Instruments
​PhD scholarship

INTENT - ERC Funded Project:
Intelligent Instruments: Understanding 21st Century AI 
Through Creative Music Technologies

For application and further information:

The Intelligent Instruments Lab at the Iceland University of the Arts, in collaboration with the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland, invites applications for a PhD scholarship as part an European Research Council funded project called “Intelligent Instruments: Understanding 21st Century AI Through Creative Music Technologies.” We seek applications from highly qualified and motivated people to conduct research on the use of sonic instruments to aid with the exploration and understanding of data in the area of the candidate’s interest, for example the digital humanities, social sciences, climate science, geophysics, music or other fields. 
The research will involve the study of embodied interfaces and tactile and wearable technologies as instruments to leverage the entire human body and musical sensorimotor expertise in epistemic practices involving large scale multi-dimensional data processing, exploration, analysis and synthesis.  The project generally explores how artificial intelligence is embedded in musical instruments and conducts a study in the phenomenology of such instruments, the psychology of performing, and how we can foster an understanding of new intelligent technologies. For more on this topic, please see the enclosed WP3 Document. 
The successful candidate will undertake a 3-year PhD programme working on individual research within the frame of the ERC project.  The candidate will have a background in one or more of the fields of digital humanities, data science, social sciences, computer science, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction or related fields. Musical background (formal or not) is preferrable but not required.
The position is for three years and will start on September 1st, 2023.
Director of Studies: Prof. Thor Magnusson.
The research programme
Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly human-like and it is now proficient in a key human activity: musical creativity. The Intelligent Instruments project takes a novel approach in creative AI research by answering how new AI transforms our relationships with technology and other people. We seek to understand how creative AI changes our notions of art, culture and society, through developing new musical instruments as a vehicle for interdisciplinary collaboration.
This project aims to use music as a platform to establish a public understanding of AI. Through technology development, we will create the conditions to study higher-level theoretical questions on the meaning of creative AI in contemporary culture. Three respective work packages will develop: 1) instruments with creative AI; 2) human-AI collaboration in music; and 3) intelligent instruments as scientific instruments. This PhD post applies to the 3rd work package. The project initiates a public discourse on creative AI and develops a theoretical framework describing the transformed notions of self, others and knowledge when we adopt intelligent instruments in our work.
The Intelligent Instruments project is interdisciplinary in nature. Through a new research collaboration protocol, we summon researchers from diverse disciplines to conduct frontier science on intelligent instruments as boundary objects. Through open science methods the outcomes address: a) the role of creative AI in embodied technologies, and b) the understanding and reflection of artificial intelligence in future society. Grounded equally in technology development and the humanities, the project will benefit diverse disciplines by developing a theoretical framework of creative AI, initiating a discourse around human-centred creative AI, and defining principles of human-AI relations in services and products.
The research environment
The candidate will work in the Intelligent Instruments Lab at the Iceland University of the Arts in Reykjavik for the duration of the 3-year scholarship. Other lab members are the principal investigator (Prof Thor Magnusson), postdocs (Dr Jack Armitage and shorter term postdocs), three PhD students (Victor Shepardson in WP1, Nicola Privato in WP2, and you), an instrument maker (Halldor Ulfarsson) and project manager (Esther Yr Thorvaldsdottir). Other lab members include visiting researchers, master’s students, together with local and international collaborators. In addition to the lab’s technical workshop, the candidate will have access to our music studio, concert hall, the university workshops, including 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC. The candidate will be registered for a PhD in Cultural Studies at the University of Iceland and receive academic training through the university’s doctoral studies infrastructure. The supervisors will be Prof Thor Magnusson (45% - Iceland University of the Arts), Dr Runar Unnthorsson (45% - University of Iceland), and Prof Caroline Bassett (10% - Professor of Digital Humanities and Director of Cambridge Digital Humanities).
Working in the vibrant Intelligent Instruments Lab will involve a close collaboration with the lab team on technical and theoretical development, communicating both practical and theoretical findings in concerts, symposia and conferences, as well as in written form. The post will involve organising and participating in experiments with digital interfaces built in the lab, applying them on big datasets, and include travel and participation in residencies at international research institutions.
Salary: The scholarship is a 3-year full-time employment contract. The PhD stipend is 440,000 ISK per month before tax, or approx. € 2,895 EUR at today’s exchange rate.
The Intelligent Instruments Lab website can be found here: 
Qualification requirements
The ideal candidate will have background in one or more of the fields of digital humanities, data science, social sciences, computer science, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction or related fields. Musical background (formal or not) is preferrable but not required.
A suitable candidate should:
  • Hold a master’s degree in one of the following fields: sound and music computing, digital humanities, social sciences, data science and visualisation, informatics, computer science, artificial intelligence, science and technology studies, engineering, cognitive science, psychology, biology, philosophy, music technology or music information retrieval. Comparable degrees in related fields will be considered.
  • Have a practical experience in the digital humanities, social sciences or data science and have done work in areas such as programming, statistics, interface design and fieldwork.
  • Have some theoretical knowledge of recent developments in the digital humanities and be familiar with key contemporary theoretical frameworks, such as science and technology studies, actor-network theory, embodied cognition, cyberfeminism, cultural studies, posthumanism, agential realism and post-phenomenology.
  • Demonstrate an experience or awareness of how to conduct experiments and data collection with people, using appropriate methodological tools, such as discourse analysis, interviewing, video analysis, thematic or semantic analysis and micro-phenomenology.
  • Have a passion for studying or inventing new ways of understanding large scale or high-dimensional data. You seek to know how sound and music can be utilised to understand better and gain insights into complex information, for example through intelligent instruments, interactive sound design, sonification and vibrotactile feedback.
  • Be highly motivated, independent, organised and have a personal commitment to the success of the research project as a whole.
  • Be a good team worker, ready to collaborate on a daily basis in the Reykjavik lab with the PI/Director of Studies, postdocs, other PhD students, as well as visiting artists and MA students on shared goals and experiment design.
  • Have an excellent command of written and spoken English.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity
The Iceland University of the Arts implements an Equality Action Plan which follows laws from the Icelandic government promoting equality and diversity. In addition, the Intelligent Instruments Lab operates from a code of conduct ensuring people’s workplace satisfaction. We are committed to providing an inclusive working environment and we strongly encourage people of diverse backgrounds to apply, especially people who consider themselves underrepresented in this research field.
We operate with a broad and undefined notion of intelligent instruments, and seek pluralistic, intersectional and transdisciplinary viewpoints to what intelligence and agency mean in contemporary technoscience. If you feel that your perspective can add to our’s, as we aim for varied experiences and viewpoints, we would love to hear from you and hopefully receive an application from you.


Application process
The application should include the following five documents and information. All documents should be submitted in English in a PDF format.
  1. A one-page cover letter describing your academic and professional background and how these make you suitable for the position.
  2. A project proposal. In the proposal you describe what you aim to research under the rubric of the Intelligent Instruments research programme. We seek projects that engage with applying sonic interfaces for interpretation of big data. A good proposal will include a clear contextualisation, research questions, research methods to answer those questions, a description of outputs, a 3-year work plan and a bibliography. Please use the Proposal Template we supply. We also include an information document on WP3 for your reference.
  3. A CV (max 4-pages). Any publications or conference presentations should be listed.
  4. Degree certificates of your Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
  5. A document with the names of two referees with contact information.
All applications will be answered and a selection of applicants will be invited for an interview to be held virtually.
The deadline for submission is Monday, April 17th, 2023. Candidates will be shortlisted in late April and interviews will take place in mid-May. The appointment will be decided shortly thereafter. Applications should be sent in a compressed folder to intent-admin [at]
The post is a collaboration between the Iceland University of the Arts and the University of Iceland. Appointments are made in consideration of the Equal Rights Policy of the University of Iceland.  
Any further information about the post can be provided by the PI – thor.magnusson [at]
Info on working in Iceland can be found here: