Exploring Social Interaction With a Tangible Music Interface

Xambó, Anna; Hornecker, Eva; Marshall, Paul; Jorda, Sergi; Dobbyn, Chris and Laney, Robin (2016). Exploring Social Interaction With a Tangible Music Interface. Interacting with Computers, 29(2) pp. 248–270.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/iwc/iww019


This article presents a video-based field study of the Reactable, a tabletop tangible user interface (TUI) for music performance, in a hands-on science centre. The goal was to investigate visitors’ social interactions in a public setting. We describe liminality and cross-group interaction, both synchronous with fluid transitions and overlaps in use between groups and asynchronous. Our findings indicate the importance of: (i) facilitating smooth transitions and overlaps between groups and (ii) supporting not only synchronous but also asynchronous group interaction. We discuss the lessons learned on how best to enable liminal situations in the design of interactive tabletops and TUIs for social interaction and particularly collaborative tangible music in public museum settings.

• Presentation of a video-based field study describing cross-group interaction.

• Description of exemplar vignettes of video for illustrating liminal situations in social interaction.

• Discussion of the nature of different levels of cross-group interaction and their relevance for social interaction and collaboration.

• Lessons learned in how best to enable liminal situations in the design of collaborative tangible user interfaces for promoting social interaction and collaboration.

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