Collaborative music interaction on tabletops: an HCI approach

Xambó, Anna; Laney, Robin; Dobbyn, Chris and Jordà, Sergi (2011). Collaborative music interaction on tabletops: an HCI approach. In: BCS HCI 2011 Workshop on When Words Fail: What can Music Interaction tell us about HCI?, 4 Jul 2011, Newcastle Upon Tyne.



With the advent of tabletop interaction, collaborative activities are better supported than they are on single-user PCs because there exists a physical shareable space, and interaction with digital data is more embodied and social. In sound and music computing, collaborative music making has traditionally been done using interconnected networks, but using separated computers. Musical tabletops introduce opportunities of playing in collaboration through sharing physically the same musical interface. However, few tabletop musical interfaces exploit this collaborative potential (e.g. the Reactable). We are interested in looking into how collaboration can be fully supported by means of musical tabletops for music performance in contrast with more traditional settings. We are also looking at whether collective musical engagement can be enhanced by providing more suitable interfaces to collaboration. In HCI and software development, we find an iterative process approach of design and evaluation—where evaluation allows us to identify key issues that can be addressed in the next design iteration of the system. Using a similar iterative approach, we plan to design and evaluate some tabletop musical interfaces. The aim is to understand what design choices can enhance and enrich collaboration and collective musical engagement on these systems. In this paper, we explain the evaluation methodologies we have undertaken in three preliminary pilot studies, and the lessons we have learned. Initial findings indicate that evaluating tabletop musical interfaces is a complex endeavour which requires an approach as close as possible to a real context, with an interdisciplinary approach provided by interaction analysis techniques.

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