(Current) Thesis Abstract

Networked Music Cultures: An embodied approach to interaction, place, and participation

This thesis seeks to recognize new forms of participation and collective experience at the fusion of architecture and interaction design through a musical interface for listening and composing. It looks at a series of ideas from the perspectives of art, computer science, philosophy, architecture, and music culture (both listening and composing). These ideas fall under the following terms: embodied information and spimes, tangible computing, embodied interaction, place, participation and community. The embodiment of digital information manifested as a tangible interface leads to an approach of embodied interaction. This type of interaction can establish a new sense of place imbued with the potential for participation which relates directly to a collective experience of community.

The significance of this thesis is its analysis of and contribution to the following fields. First is computation within architecture, on the level of responsive environments and phenomenology. Second is the cultural impact of widespread uses of mobile computing and networking. As a consequence the convention for computing is rapidly changing from a keyboard and mouse to touch/sensor input which provides a much more didactic environment. Gesture, orientation, and location quickly become important parts of the computing experience and the smoothing of interaction. Third, it is concerned with the performance and participatory aspects of computing and networking. Overall, this paradigm in computing has dramatically shifted the ways in which we consume, share, and create music.

A brief review of terms
Embodied Information
The embodiment of information realizes, “a different perspective on the role of computation, in which the computation is integrated much more directly with the artifacts themselves” (Dourish, pg. 43). An important distinction can be made here between the way site is conceived of in this definition and in conventional computing. A laptop or desktop computer maintains a site of the system itself, while the site of embodied information is the world of the user. This embodiment is often referred to as tangible computing. This shifting of site reinforces the importance of our surrounding environments both spatially and culturally.

Embodied Interaction
One benefit of bringing computation into the exterior environment of the user is the potential for embodied interaction. Salter describes this type of interaction as turning, “bodies into alternative ‘controllers’ through wearable sensors, carried objects, maladjusted instruments, and augmented outfits” (pg. 217). The physical movements and sensory receptors of the body become methods for interaction along with external forces from our surrounding environment.

Place, Community, and Participation
When information becomes embodied and is interfaced through an interaction revolving around the body, a unique sense of place is established. Place can be seen as, “a space with something added – social meaning, convention, cultural understandings about role, function and nature” (Harrison, pg. 3). What is important for this thesis is the sense of community arising from a place. Pallasmaa writes, referring to the sense of hearing, “we stare alone at the suspense of a circus, but the burst of applause after the relaxation of suspense unites us to the crowd” (pg. 35). Therefore, a participatory aspect relates directly to the establishment of place.

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