The Open UniversitySkip to content

A cognitive dimensions analysis of interaction design for algorithmic composition software

Bellingham, Matt; Holland, Simon and Mulholland, Paul (2014). A cognitive dimensions analysis of interaction design for algorithmic composition software. In: Proceedings of Psychology of Programming Interest Group Annual Conference 2014 (du Boulay, Benedict and Good, Judith eds.), 25-27 Jun 2014, Brighton, University of Sussex, pp. 135–140.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (746kB) | Preview
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


This paper presents an analysis of the user interfaces of a range of algorithmic music composition software using the Cognitive Dimensions of Notations as the main analysis tool. Findings include the following: much of the reviewed software exhibits a low viscosity and requires significant user knowledge. The use of metaphor (staff notation, music production hardware) introduces multiple levels of abstraction which the user has to understand in order to use effectively: some instances of close mapping reduce abstraction but require the user to do more work. Significant premature commitment is not conducive to music composition, and there are clear opportunities for the greater provisionality that a piece of structurally-aware music software could provide. Visibility and juxtaposability are frequently compromised by complex design. Patching software reduces the hard mental operations required of the user by making the signal flow clear, although graphical complexity can have a negative impact on role-expressiveness. Complexity leads to error-proneness in several instances, although there are some tools (such as error-checking and auto-completion) which seek to ameliorate the main problems

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2014 The Authors
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetNot SetThe Open University (OU)
Keywords: POP-I.C. end-user applications, POP-II.B. design, POP-III.C. Cognitive Dimensions, user interfaces, theories of design, exploratory
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Computing and Communications
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Knowledge Media Institute (KMi)
Research Group: Centre for Research in Computing (CRC)
Related URLs:
Item ID: 43247
Depositing User: Simon Holland
Date Deposited: 29 May 2015 08:16
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 20:36
Share this page:

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU