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Musical agency and an ecological perspective of DMIs: collective embodiment in third wave HCI


Understanding how to take into account the breadth of considerations required by third-wave HCI remains a challenge when designing technologies. This requires an understanding of what embodiment means, and in particular, a collective notion of embodiment. Within the field of digital musical instrument (DMI) design, the need for a DMI to support musical agency has been recognised along with a view of the inter-relationship between musician, instrument, context and audience as an ecology has been developed. These considerations are consonant with an understanding of embodiment within this field. In this paper we describe a project in which a digital musical instrument was designed and developed adopting an approach informed by participatory design where musicians became integral to the design process. Through this process a practical understanding of the nature of musical agency and this ecology was developed. This understanding provides insights into the nature of embodiment and meaning making within a creative and performative practice, and is informative to the wider field of HCI as it seeks to understand considerations of embodiment.

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We would like to acknowledge the significant contribution to our project by the members of UQ School of Music iPad ensemble and the opportunity to collaborate with them throughout the project. We would like to thank staff from the UQ School of Music: Chris Perrin who co-ordinated the course that UQiPad ensemble students participated in and for arranging the final performance of the ensemble, and Dr. Eve Klein for establishing and then facilitating the collaboration. Finally, we would also like to acknowledge and thank Shiva Balachandran a Master of Interaction Design student who also worked on the project throughout, helping to construct Soundscape and participated in the design process that was fundamental to the project.

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Correspondence to Peter Worthy.

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Worthy, P., Hunter, T., Matthews, B. et al. Musical agency and an ecological perspective of DMIs: collective embodiment in third wave HCI. Pers Ubiquit Comput 25, 797–807 (2021).

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