An Enactive Approach to Digital Musical Instrument Design

Newton Armstrong

A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF PRINCETON UNIVERSITY IN CANDIDACY FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

RECOMMENDED FOR ACCEPTANCE BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC

November 2006

© Copyright by Newton Blaire Armstrong, 2006. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents ............................................................................ iii Abstract ..........................................................................................v Acknowledgements ......................................................................... vii 1 Introduction............................................................................... 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 2 The Disconnect .........................................................................2 Flow ........................................................................................6 The Criteria of Embodied Activity ................................................8 The Computer-as-it-comes....................................................... 12

The Interface ............................................................................16 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Interaction and Indirection....................................................... 16 Representation and Cognitive Steering ...................................... 18 Computationalism ................................................................... 23 Sensing and Acting ................................................................. 32 Functional and Realizational Interfaces ...................................... 41 Conclusion ............................................................................. 49

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Enaction ....................................................................................51 3.1 3.2 Two Persistent Dualisms .......................................................... 51 Double Embodiment ................................................................ 55
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.......................................................................... 61 Towards an Enactive Model of Interaction ................................................................3 3.............1 4.......................................................5 3...100 4............................ 155 iv .......................................................................... Feely: Hardware........................................................................................3 4. 128 Prospects ........................ Feely: Software.........................................................4 3................................................... 103 Mr......................................152 Bibliography...3........... 98 Implementation .. 100 Mr.............. 116 Mr................ 148 5 Groundlessness ........4 4.....5 Kinds of Resistance ..................... 69 The Discontinuous Unfolding of Skill Acquisition ... 82 Conclusion .....................2 4............ Feely: Usage Examples ...........6 4 Structural Coupling .........................................................

Abstract

Digital musical instruments bring about problems for performance that are different in kind to those brought about by conventional acoustic instruments. In this essay, I argue that one of the most significant of these problems is the way in which conventional computer interfaces preclude embodied modes of interaction. I examine the theoretical and technological foundations of this “disconnect” between performer and instrument, and sketch an outline for the design of embodied or “enactive” digital instruments. My research builds on recent work in human-computer interaction and “soft” artificial intelligence, and is informed by the phenomenology of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, as well as the “enactive cognitive science” of Francisco Varela and others. I examine the ways in which the conventional metaphors of computer science and “hard” artificial intelligence derive from a mechanistic model of human reasoning, and I outline how this model has informed the design of interfaces that inevitably lead to disembodied actional modes. I propose an alternative model of interaction that draws on various threads from the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and the enactive cognitive scientists. The “enactive model of interaction” that I propose is concerned with circular chains of embodied interdependency between performer and instrument, instrumental “resistance” to human action and intentionality, and an integrative approach to the roles of sensing, acting and cognitive process in the incremental acquisition of performative skill.

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The final component of the essay is concerned with issues of implementation. I detail a project in hardware and software that I present as a candidate “enactive digital musical instrument,” I outline some specific usage examples, and I discuss prospects for future work.

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Acknowledgements

This paper would have been a much bigger mess were it not for the timely contributions of a number of people. In particular, I have benefited from the very careful readings and insightful criticisms of my advisor, Barbara White, and my first reader, Dan Trueman. Paul Lansky has uttered more wise words than I could count, and he has changed my mind about many things during my time at Princeton (although, as far as I can tell, that was never really his intention). Perry Cook has taught me a great deal about interaction, both in his classes and in the approach to design that he takes in his own projects. He has been an outstanding role model in terms of bridging the gap between theory and practice, and knowing when it’s time to just sit down with a soldering iron. I have also benefited greatly from conversations with other graduate students while at Princeton. In particular, I’d like to thank Ted Coffey, Paul Audi, Mary Noble, Seth Cluett, Scott Smallwood and Ge Wang, each of whom has given me feedback on my work, in the form of both critical readings and more casual conversations about the core topics. I’m also grateful to the other composers in my intake year: Paul Botelho, Stefan Weisman and Miriama Young. Together we represent a diverse group, but there has been a considerable and on-going interest in each other’s work, and this interest has been borne out in tangible forms of support for our respective projects and activities. The history of electronic music performance goes largely without mention in my paper. But the research would not have been possible in the first place were

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who would question the hidden nature of electronic media in order to uncover not just new sounds. whether through written accounts and recordings. from David Tudor to Toshimaru Nakamura.it not for those practitioners. I’m looking forward to rejoining the ranks of the improvising community in a less part-time capacity. or through personal contact and performance collaborations. I am indebted to all those electronic performers whose work I have engaged. but new potentialities of the body. viii . Although my fingers are rusty from typing.

— Harry Partch. Some New and Old Thoughts After and Before “The Bewitched” 1 . because of its particular virtues and its particular defects. And as a matter of fact much electronic music leaves the impression that this IS the attitude in which sounds are composed. It says that the functional shape of an instrument is not important as a sculptural object. It says that music is a pure art of sound. but the implication is irrelevant. sensual vision of the playing of it is no longer required. for people with ears. That the physical. but with little else— no eyes. are obsolescent. even misleading. no nerve endings anywhere but the ears. no interrelated functions.1 Introduction Electronics for its own sounds’ sake is a resource that one would be stupid to dismiss. and that the techniques developed on it.

The Phenomenology of Perception The mid-1990s marked a juncture in the short history of computer music. the same thing as a wheel bearing a load.1. the personal computer was becoming fast enough to be used as a realtime synthesizer of sound. there has been a rapid proliferation of new software and input devices designed specifically for musical performance with general purpose computers. at least in certain quarters.1 The Disconnect A wooden wheel placed on the ground is not. performance practices and musical idioms have emerged in tandem to the new technologies. But while the widespread availability of the personal computer to the first world middle class has resulted in the medium finding its way into any number of new and diverse musical contexts. More often than not. For the first time. In the years since the mid-1990s. they revolve around an apparent lack of embodied human presence 2 . the question as to whether the computer should be properly considered a musical instrument continues. these controversies revolve around the relationship between the human performer and the performance medium. a capability that had previously been the reserve of special purpose machines that were for the most part inaccessible to people working outside an institutional framework. for sight. Or. to generate some controversy. A body at rest because no force is being exerted upon it is again for sight not the same thing as a body in which opposing forces are in equilibrium. and a burgeoning corpus of new theories. more specifically. — Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

In both instances. between performer and audience. the modes of performance that are attendant to those 3 . but because conventional expectations as regards the constitutive elements of musical performance have not yet caught up to an essentially new performance practice (Cascone 2000. Defenders of the “near-motionless” school of computer music performance have suggested that complaints such as these arise not because there is something substantive missing from the interaction between performer and performance medium. it’s necessary that that audience picks up on somatic cues that signal the point of origin. and between performer and instrument. Those who complain about the current state of computer music performance practice reveal something of their assumptions and expectations as regards musical performance: that the involvement of the performer’s body constitutes a critical dimension of the practice. what is witnessed is a disconnect. and that the attributes of the medium necessitate a break with established instrumental conventions. The complainants argue that the performer is either absorbed in near-motionless contemplation of the computer screen—the repertoire of performance gestures not substantively different from those that comprise any routine interaction with a personal computer—or that there is a high degree of arbitrariness to the performer’s actions.and involvement in computer music performance practice. and that for such an involvement to be tangible to the audience. Stuart 2003). The argument has it that the computer. of the sounds they are hearing. in real time and real space. where the absence of any explicit correlation between motor input and sonic output results in a disassociation of performer from performance medium. considered as a performance medium. brings a unique set of issues and concerns to the problem of musical performance.

based as they are on speculative assessments of the receptive habits and practices of listeners. What distinguishes one side from the other is where that missing something is located: with the performer. In this essay. it is borne out of frustration as a computer music performer. who needs to relearn “active” modes of listening. But more pressingly. Despite investing a number of years in the development of both hardware and software designed specifically for performance. assumptions and receptive habits of audiences. In certain respects. that computer music performance practice.conventions. and the expectations. or with the audient. and that most of the interesting and significant work in the field remains to be done. the present study is a legitimation of the complaints being uttered against the current state of computer music performance practice. or “aural performativity (Stuart 2003).” and that the emergence of the new performance paradigm signals a shift away from the locus of the body of the performer. that is. I’ve found that the performance medium has in all but a few instances managed to maintain a safe distance. then. as it stands. 4 . It’s difficult to defend either position.” On both sides of the argument over the state of computer music performance practice. the “object of performance” is instead transferred to the ears of the audient. But what can be called into question is the implied corollary to the apologist’s claim that the burden of responsibility lies with the audient. is already mature. It’s been suggested that those who take issue with the apparent lack of human motor involvement in current computer music performance practice reveal a mindset “created by constant immersion in pop media (Cascone 2000: 101-102). there is a suggestion that something is missing. I take the opposite position: that computer music performance practice remains both theoretically and technologically under-developed.

or “missing dimension. that is the cause of all this. in order to determine what can be done to engender the technical conditions from which an embodied performance practice might arise. then the medium effectively guarantees that an embodied coupling of human and instrument—a coupling that creates the possibility of engaged and involved experience—never quite takes place. something that necessarily and inevitably brings about a disconnect.corroborating (from the shaky perspective of first person phenomenal experience) the complaint of the disconnect. If the attributes of the computer preclude such a mode of performance. I’ve come to believe that there is something intrinsic to the computer. something embedded in the medium itself.” that certain people have been complaining about. is not due to a conditioned desire for spectacle. 5 . or an ingrained expectation that an explicitly causal relation is witnessed between performance gesture and sonic result. and for the social space that they co-construct through the performance ritual. I’m going to suggest that the perceived disconnect. the audience. If it turns out that is in fact the case. and significant form of music making. dynamic. for the performer. then the medium deserves to be examined. Unlike the apologists for the currently predominant modes of computer music performance practice. it seems to me that there is something more fundamental to the issue: that an engaged and embodied mode of performance leads to a more compelling. Rather.

2 Flow The matter of music is sound and body motion. and the loss of any immediate sense of severance between agent (the performer) and environment (the instrument. For a concise summation of the applicability of Csikszentmihaly's ideas to instrumental performance see Burzik's "Go with the flow" (Burzik 2003). and other providers of context).2 In a sequence of on-going negotiations between performer and 1 For a more complete account of "flow. see Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. and their responses are tightly correlated to the variety of inputs from the performer’s body that are afforded by the mechanism. De Musica Performers of conventional acoustic instruments often talk of the sense of flow they experience while playing. an affordance is an opportunity for action that the environment presents to an embodied agent. the social setting. and it’s a coupling that happens as a matter of course with acoustic instruments. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Csikszentmihaly 1991). the term accounts for the particular 6 . 2 The notion of "affordance" was introduced by psychologist James Gibson (Gibson 1977.1 It’s a way of being that consists in the merging of action and awareness. Conventional acoustic instruments offer resistance to the body of the performer. 1979). In the Gibsonian sense. It’s the kind of absorbing experience that can arise in the directed exchange between an embodied agent and a physical mechanism.1." in the sense that I will use the term. the acoustic space. — Aristides. As such.

I’m not specifically interested in appropriating the conventions of acoustic instrumental practice for computer music. but to a woodpecker it may afford something quite different (Clark 1997:172). the performer adapts to what is uncovered in the act of playing. continually developing new forms of embodied knowledge and competence. or flow. and because it seems that the computer has a way of both limiting the body’s possibilities and diminishing its potential for resistance." 7 . or in modeling acoustic instruments in the digital domain. as well as her intentionality. these negotiations lead to a more fully developed relationship with the instrument. I focus on the shortcomings of current theory and technologies. considered as a performance medium. and of an engaged coupling with a complex physical mechanism.. To borrow an example from Andy Clark: ". presents new and unique problems and prospects. but because I choose to conceive of the body as a site of possibility and resistance. to a human a chair affords sitting. and on the body of the performer—not because of the body’s historical coupling to conventional instruments. But where those writers focus on the shortcomings of the audience. I hold that the computer.instrument. physical and perceptual attributes and abilities of the agent. and to a heightened sense of embodiment. But in the context of the present study.. Over a sustained period of time. Performance with a conventional acoustic instrument serves as a useful example of an embodied mode of human activity. Along with those writers who would proclaim the advent of a new computer music performance practice.

Such action involves complex and continuous exchanges and interactions between senses. in which meaning and purpose arise not through abstract contemplation. the five key criteria of 8 . the nervous system (including the brain). I’ll return to what I take to be the five key criteria of embodied musical performance. and will remain central. then some work needs to be done. and if it does not presently lend itself to embodied form of interaction. It amounts to a presence and participation in the world.3 The Criteria of Embodied Activity Over the course of this essay. space and the self. to musical performance. 1. of a heightened sense of embodiment. involves an immediately palpable feeling of active presence in a world that is directly lived and experienced. The optimal performative experience—this somewhat intangible and elusive notion of flow—could be characterized as a way of being that is so direct. or. these are qualities that I believe are central. that the normative senses of time. Traditional though it may seem. are put temporarily on hold. and the social and physical environment in which the ritualised act of performance is embedded. immediate and engaging. in experiential real time and real space. to the experience of playing a conventional acoustic instrument that are pertinent to thinking about the design of digital musical instruments that would allow for embodied modes of performance. but directly within the course of action. more specifically. the motor system (muscles).There are attributes. If the computer is going to figure as a musical instrument. then. In short. the experience of flow.

Embodied activity is multimodal. missing one or two along the way. falling behind the time. Embodied activity is situated. This means that it is incumbent on the agent to not disrupt the flow of activity because her capacity for action is too slow. Embodiment arises contextually. 2. and the agent must be able to meet these constraints in a timely manner. Embodied activity is timely. or because it actually does speed up. This involves 3 David Sudnow uses a nice example of untimely behavior in Ways of the Hand: Recall Charlie Chaplin on the assembly line in Modern Times: the conveyor belt continuously carrying a moving collection of nuts and bolts to be tightened. The agent must be able to adapt to changes in the environment.3 3. because the upcoming flow seems to gain speed and he gets frantic. through an agent’s interactions with her environment. A large portion of the agent’s total sensorimotor capabilities are galvanised in performance. Real world activity involves real-time constraints. and in her relationship to it.the particular kind of embodied mode of interaction with digital musical instruments that I hope to uncover through outlining a philosophically informed approach to instrument design. without full prior knowledge of the features of the environment. their placements at regular intervals on the belt. or of its structure and dynamics. eventually caught up in the machine and ejected onto the factory floor in his hysterical epileptic dance. Those criteria are: 1. rushing to catch up. Chaplin holding these two wrenches. (Sudnow 2001:32-3) 9 . screwing bolts faster to stay ahead of the work.

4 That is. The sense of embodiment is an emergent phenomenon. optimal embodied experience arises incrementally over a history of sensorimotor performances within a given environment or phenomenal domain. the environment is incomplete without the involvement of the agent. i.optimising the use of the body’s total available resources for cognition. as embodiment is a given for biological systems. Borrowing from cognitive scientists Francisco Varela. whereas the fact of embodiment is objective. There is a link between increasing sensorimotor competence within the task domain and the sense of embodiment. The implications of this double sense of embodiment—of its "inner" and "outer" aspects—are explored in Chapter 3. between those modalities. That is. then.. The sense of embodiment arises when the agent is required by the task domain. I will refer to the embodied mode of performative activity I’m outlining here as enactive." But this is potentially misleading. action and perception. Embodied activity is engaging. but for the time being it’s useful 4 This criterion could perhaps have been condensed into the phrase "embodiment is an emergent phenomenon. or cross-coupling. as well as the potential for mutual interaction. and it presents challenges to the agent that consume a large portion of her attention. 4.e. living organisms do not emerge into their bodies. is phenomenal. The sense of embodiment. 5. Thompson. 10 . Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch (Varela. and Rosch 1991). with an emphasis on the concurrent utilisation of distinct sensorimotor modalities. I’ll address the concept of enaction in more depth in Chapter 3.

e. it arises through and within an agent’s physical interactions with her environment.to emphasize the centrality of the body to the enactive model of cognition.”5 provides a template for the performance practice that I hope will emerge from this study.” but it also encompasses the emergence and development of knowledge and competence. In the enactive view. and cognitive systems and structures. of an instantaneous conceptual and corporeal disposition within a given environment. and fully reciprocal process of mutual determination and specification in which subjectivity and the sense of embodiment are in a continuous state of flux. In contrast to orthodox views of mental process that view cognition as the internal mirroring of an objective external world. and Rosch 1991). Thompson. the enactive perspective takes the repeated sensorimotor interactions between the agent and the environment as the fundamental locus of cognitive development. with its emphasis on bodily involvement in the “bringing forth of a world.. Rosch and Thompson's The Embodied Mind (Varela. the cognitive dimension of activity. 5 The expression is borrowed from Varela. the “now” of lived experience. play a determining role in constituting the “now. i. This model of cognition..” It’s an ongoing. This encompasses the dynamics of the experiential present.e. in turn. To that extent. i. that which is ineluctably the “now. cognition is fundamentally an embodied phenomenon. circular. plays a determining role in the emergence of cognitive systems and structures. 11 .

the field as a whole has not been immune to 6 The "prevailing guiding metaphors" of CS and HCI—i. Winograd and Flores 1986) have shown that it is no easy task to design computing devices that would allow for embodied modes of interaction. The nascent field of computational science was set on a steady path.1.4 The Computer-as-it-comes A number of authors (Agre 1995. The prevailing guiding metaphors of computer science (CS) and human computer interaction (HCI)6 are at odds with the embodied/enactive approach. In the intellectual battles of mid-century. multimodal. the epistemological underpinnings of what I have labelled "conventional" CS and HCI—will be outlined in terms of a computationalist ontology in Chapter 2. 2001.e. and routinely preclude modes of interaction that are situated. dominated by the computational metaphor. Lynn Andrea Stein has suggested that it was a matter of historical contingency that saw the computationalist approach hold sway in the formative days of computer science: Cybernetics took seriously the idea of a computation embedded in and coupled to its environment. and engaging. but its connections to the world around it were weakened. Stein 1999. Clancey 1997. cybernetics failed to provide the necessary empowerment for the emerging science of computation and so was lost. or that lead to a heightened sense of embodiment over a history of interactions. And while the subset of computing devices that is of specific interest to this essay—digital musical instruments—is these days comprised of a vast and diverse array of implementations. Dourish 1999. (Stein 1999:482) 12 .. 1997. timely. These were precisely the issues suppressed by the computationalist approaches.

It may be useful to distinguish between two main currents in present day computer music performance practice.” in which the computer is used as a signal processing add-on or improvising partner to a conventional 7 The term "laptop music" surfaced in the second half of the 1990s. This practice is often encapsulated under the rubric of “laptop music. For a diverse range of assessments of laptop performance practice and its reception.the guiding metaphors of conventional CS and HCI. This is not to say that all digital musical instruments have failed to realize the potential for embodied modes of interaction. But rather. through the development and integration of new technologies designed specifically for musical performance. This is the field of activity to which my own work belongs. at around the same time that the first "laptop performers" began to appear. The first of these would take the personal computer more or less as it comes (with minimal or zero additions to the standard input devices).” The second of the two currents is defined precisely through its non-acceptance of the “computer-as-it-comes” as a musical instrument. or even completely reconfigure them. and would normally be characterized by the “nearmotionless” mode of performance described earlier in the chapter.”7 and has given rise to a so-called “laptop aesthetic (Jaeger 2003). those instruments that have managed to realize this potential have done so despite the conventional tenets of CS and HCI. of “extended acoustic instruments. 13 .” A third current could also be identified. and I will refer to it under the (intentionally) broad term of “digital musical instruments. Rather. see the articles collected in Contemporary Music Review 22 (4). 2003. the practitioners seek to extend computing devices.

the limits and potentialities of the current computational media—i. While this has lead to numerous innovations in both the theory and technology of computer music performance.acoustic instrument. But as the presence of the acoustic instrument already invokes the potential for embodied performance. The tendency in digital musical instrument design has been to focus on the pragmatic issues of design: specific sensor and actuator technologies. and that in order to arrive at sustainable designs for enactive instruments. and the same computer that those working towards “digital musical instruments” would seek to re-engineer in order to arrive at embodied modes of performance. the technological instantiation of the conventional guiding metaphors of CS and HCI. There has been a great deal of activity in recent years in the development of new digital musical instruments. The “computer-as-it-comes” is a term that will appear throughout this essay. this area of practice is not of specific relevance to the present study. I believe that the most pressing issues in arriving at designs that allow for embodied forms of musical interaction with computers are philosophical. This is the computer that “laptop music” adopts wholesale into its performance practice.e. research papers and theses on issues in live computer music. What I intend to denote is not so much a specific device (although it could be). audio 14 .. but rather a general notion of the more or less generic personal computer. the defining attributes of the computeras-it-comes—need to be examined in philosophical terms. There has also been a steadily growing corpus of scholarly articles. there remains a near total absence of work related specifically to the philosophical foundations of instrument design.

with a view to providing a conceptual touching stone for the pragmatic stage. all too regularly. Without addressing these issues at some point. and. that are immanent in designs. of course. and so on. in the technological artifacts that result from those designs. and towards arriving at designs that are more fully and properly geared towards the requirements and desires of embodied human actors. there will. then that medium needs to be examined with a philosophical perspective in order to arrive at a better understanding of the ways in which it determines its patterns of use. If a medium precludes a desired usage— an embodied mode of interaction. As I will endeavour to show. While there is a great deal of overlap between the pragmatic and the foundational issues. these implications are philosophical in origin. This is the first step towards rethinking and reconfiguring those patterns. it seems to me that the shift of emphasis is potentially very useful. there is a greater likelihood that designers will unwittingly fall back on the received tenets of CS and HCI. and. But in this essay I focus more on the theoretical and foundational issues of design. behavior and cognition. for example—and if it does so because of the world models that are embedded in its very mechanism. in turn. even though those tenets may (and more often than not will) work against the bringing into being of enactive instruments. The personal computer brings with it a sizable repertoire of usage conventions. 15 . and models of interaction. reflecting world views. designers end up drawing on the conventional patterns of use without proper consideration of the implications of those patterns for the end user. Without proper attention to the foundational issues. mapping strategies. be no digital musical instruments of which to speak.synthesis methods.

in the first instance. through the interface abstraction layer. Output devices (such as monitors. — Pierre Schaeffer. loudspeakers and printers) transmit human-decodable respresentations of the state of the running programs from the computer back to the user. is required.2 The Interface Musical ideas are prisoners. Traite des Objets Sonore 2. protocols and procedures appropriate to the task domain for which the interface. The interface provides the human with a means of access to the programs running on the computer. more than one might believe. Input devices (such as keyboards and mice) capture signals from the user that are mapped. 16 . it consists in providing an appropriate abstraction of computational data and tasks to the user. to changes in the state of computer programs. Interactions between a human and a computer are conducted through an interface.1 Interaction and Indirection Interaction takes place when signals are passed back and forth between two or more entities. Human-computer interface design is therefore concerned with providing the user with a set of usage practices. of musical devices.

the canonical example of the hammer. the interactional domain needs to be designed. if ever. It follows that interactions with a computer are necessarily indirect. and the way in which that task is conceived by the user. considered as an interface. Rather.1 is the absence of any direct correlation between the physical domain in which a computational task is carried out. and the human agent does not interact with those circuits in any kind of physically direct manner. Rather. The physics of computational media consists in the regulated flow of electrons through circuits. but from the overwhelming majority of tools that humans use. Already. including conventional acoustic musical instruments. in order for significant interactions to take place. its physical operations are abstracted. in order to accomplish meaningful tasks with computers. 17 . then. is correlated within the user’s cognitive apparatus to the physical act of hammering. The hammer. correlated within the cognitive apparatus to the electrical phenomena that constitute the physics of computation. we see the “disconnect” between agent and medium. and the task domain is presented to the user in the form of graphical and auditory representations. in the distance that the interface imposes between the human and the computer. This sets the medium apart not only from the hammer. see Don Ihde's Instrumental Realism (Ihde 1991). say.One thing that distinguishes the computer from tools such as. input devices need to 1 The hammer example has figured large in philosophy of technology and media theory since its appearance in Heidegger's Being and Time (Heidegger [1927] 1962) and “The Question Concerning Technology (Heidegger [1949] 1977)." For an interesting analysis of the role that the hammer has played within these discourses. But a computer user’s interactions with a computer are rarely.

The overriding goal of conventional human-computer interface design is to reduce the inevitable distance between agent and medium. ideally to the extent that the user comes to conceive of the task domain directly in the terms of the representations that comprise the interface. Weiser and Brown 1996). reducing the degree of indirection between agent and medium is also the goal of the present study. aggregated metaphorical schema—that are customarily (though somewhat inaccurately) characterized as software. (printed on a coffee mug) The computer-as-it-comes packages interface abstractions into representational frameworks—i.be be mapped to tasks and procedures in software.2 Representation and Cognitive Steering Things is what they things. Users of 2 This is the express goal of so-called "direct manipulation" interface models (see 2. would seek to embed computing devices directly (and invisibly) within the user's environment (Dourish 2001. and software data need to be transmitted to the user in the form of representations. But an enactive model of interaction will require an entirely different approach to that taken by conventional HCI. Weiser 1988. 18 .o.. 2. such as tangible and ubiquitous computing. Greenfield 2006.e.5 below). 1991. — π. More radical approaches. Norman 1999. 1994. Ullmer and Ishii 2001.2 To a certain extent.

desktops. and however conscious a designer may be of the philosophical underpinnings of the decisions made during the course of design. and the like. an encompassing system of metaphors that serves to both guide and regulate the agent’s thoughts and activities through intrinsic correspondences to everyday objects and activities. Models of the world are born out of philosophical systems. extrapolated from a real-world task environment that is likely familiar to the user.personal computers are familiar with the now standard interface metaphors for the routine management and maintenance of their computer systems: files. workspaces. The interface amounts to a model of the world. This is an unavoidable side-effect of indirection. It’s an unusual transaction that takes place between the designers of computer interfaces and the end users of those interfaces. folders. the transition from design to artifact nonetheless remains loaded with epistemological implications for the end user. It’s a suite of bureaucratic abstractions. keeping the play of regulated voltages—the physical agency through which that work is actually accomplished—well out of the user’s immediate zone of awareness. the user participates in whichever incidental model of the world happens to be implicit to the design. and. trash cans. despite a great deal of attention within the fields of interaction design and 19 . that serves to facilitate bureaucratic work. However well-formulated or defined those philosophical systems may be. Through the set of interactions made available by whichever incidental pre-packaged representational world.

“The Question Concerning Technology (Heidegger [1949] 1977). and an even larger number of end users. Through repeated performances. arrangements within which the agent is potentially free to move. These bodily habits do not so much comprise a catalogue of discrete and distinct states as they do a collection of dispositions and inclinations. but which at the same time determine the structure and dynamics of those movements. Computation and Human Experience (Agre 1997).e. there comes to exist “a durably installed generative principle of regulated improvisations (Bourdieu 1977: 78). a set of implicit assumptions as regards the elements and structure of the task domain begins to solidify. and through a chain of subtle reciprocal influences. a process in which actions are literally incorporated—i. registered in corporeal memory—through repeated performances (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2004). Critical Theory of Technology (Feenberg 1991).” As the interface delineates the conceptual milieu to the user.technology studies. see Heidegger. As Philip Agre has put it. This is what Merleau-Ponty defines as an incorporating practice. 20 . it orients the user’s cognitive activity..3 it’s a side-effect that remains beyond the bounds of consideration for a large number of designers. In a similar vein to Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus. then. it encapsulates a model of 3 In particular.” To the same extent that an interface encapsulates a model of the world. “technology at present is covert philosophy (Agre 1997: 240). the repertoire of meaningful performance actions becomes more or less fixed in bodily habit. Feenberg. and Agre.

the systems and structures that play a determining role in the formation of cognitive patterns are in turn determined by the emergent patterns of interactional dynamics. 21 . Thompson and Rosch's The Embodied Mind (Varela. In this feedback loop at the heart of the enactive view. Merleau-Ponty’s concept of incorporation is consistent with the enactive model of cognition. If we accept that these dependencies are real.” This formulation is essentially a latter day reworking of the fully recursive process. and over the history of an agent’s interactions. See in particular the book's introduction and opening chapter. and Rosch 1991: 172-173). Or to put it another way. In the enactive view. encompassing incorporating practices. at the same time that repetitive dispositions towards action and modes of perceiving are engendered within the agent’s sensorimotor mechanisms. they are mutually reinforcing. action and cognitive process are embedded. cognition. there is a high degree of reciprocal determination and specification between perception. These dual aspects are inextricably intertwined. Thompson. and the contingencies of the environment in which perception.performance. when examining an interactional domain with a view to the emergence of cognitive and performative patterns. to draw a hard 4 In Varela. “cognitive structures emerge from the recurrent sensorimotor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided (Varela. that Merleau-Ponty defined as the intentional arc4 (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2004). and Rosch 1991)—the book in which "enactive cognitive science" is first outlined—the authors acknowledge their debt to Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. Thompson. then it will make little sense. action.

without due regard to their contingencies and particularities. These are important concerns not only when arriving at new designs. the monitor. The personal computer arrives from the vendor prepackaged with a vast collection of programmed responses.dividing line between action and cognition. but also when looking at the consequences of existing designs for performance. but rather as constitutive of that very structure (Hamman 1997: 40). the more quickly the common notion of the interface as a passive and impartial means to an end begins to break down. The affordances of the computer-as-it-comes determine the limits of what is possible within any incidental task domain.” At the same time that the boundaries of the user’s potential repertoire of actions and perceptions are determined by the epistemological underpinnings of the representations that comprise the interface. and the user comes to learn. It would seem that the more closely we examine the interface in use. the user adds to these with the installation of new software. and the metaphorical schema that those interfaces encapsulate. the mouse. It will also make little sense to examine computer interfaces. the interface reveals itself as embodying a theory of knowledge and performance. and accomplishes tasks through the agency of the now standard input and display devices—the keyboard. But it’s how this theory of knowledge and performance is embodied in the interface that is of specific interest to this study. or between the mind and the body. and the loudspeakers. from one piece of software 22 . and we begin to understand it “not as an add-on which allows a human to come into relations with an underlying structure. We come to see that it is far from transparent to the task domain to which it is applied. and the potential implications for the thoughts and actions of the people who will interact with them.

about the computer-as-it-comes that sways the user into a routine-oriented mode of activity. for that matter. however. through the agency of software abstractions. it’s worth considering what it is.to the next. and input and display devices. in 23 . embodied and real-time forms of activity. are geared towards routine forms of activity. we are in need of new metaphors. the kinds of behaviors and outcomes that might be expected to come about as a result of her regulated interactions with the medium. It may well be that for the majority of tasks for which personal computers are routinely used. particularly over the last fifteen years. situated. and new technologies. For complex. and thereby precludes the potential for embodied and enactive modes of interaction. with regard to personal computers in general—it’s nonetheless a topic that has received some considerable attention. The predominant guiding metaphors of human-computer interface design.3 Computationalism While little has been written about the philosophical basis of interaction design with specific regard to digital musical instruments—or even. But I will endeavor to show that it is precisely the models of activity that are embedded in the interface to the computer-as-it-comes that preclude the sense of optimal embodied experience—the sense of flow—that can arise in complex real-time activities such as musical performance with conventional acoustic instruments. the computer-as-it-comes is a perfectly adequate medium. 2. new ways of thinking about design. exactly. Before heading straight to the drawing board.

As the complexity of the agent’s environment increases. Brooks (1991). 24 . Winograd and Flores (1986). As a succession of AI implementations would bear out. action and reasoning that originally appeared to have such vast potential. Moreover.5 Having accomplished so little of what the pioneers of the field promised in the 1960s. AI theorists and practitioners have been forced to critically re-examine the institutionally endorsed models of perception. In turn. the number of conditions that must be encoded in the agent’s representation of the environment increases in geometric proportion. and Agre (1997). as well as the various philosophical assumptions on which those foundations are built. symbolic representations of real-world task domains must take into account a huge number of environmental variables if the artificial agent-at-large is to be endowed with even a sub-insect capacity for sensing and locomotion. This has led to some important questions being raised as regards the traditional foundations of interaction design. Dreyfus (1992).artificial intelligence (AI). the number of environmental variables also increases. it does not take long before the computational load on the artificial agent ensures against its being capable of the rapid real-time responses that we witness in the various creatures that inhabit the real world. the agent has no capacity for responding to features or obstacles that appear in the environment 5 In particular see Haugeland (1985). Given an environment of incrementally increasing complexity.

7 This would be no simple task. by an engineer. and socalled “hard” cognitive science. 1991)." 25 . Leibniz. They would be arguing against the guiding rubric of computer science. see the introduction to Andy Clark's Being There (Clark 1997). as each new object requires that a new representation be added. then. But even this notion of computation—the originary notion of computer science—is itself already grounded in an older notion. The breakaway AI researchers would be arguing. the mechanistic explanation of the 17th century. where those symbols stand in for objects and operations in the world.unexpectedly. that has variously been labeled “mentalism (Agre 1995. namely. 1936. not only with the accepted wisdom of the field.6 It was precisely these kinds of problems that prompted a small faction of AI researchers to question the very principle of symbolic representation. but with Descartes. Locke and Newton. to the agent’s model of the world. as since the advent of the Church-Turing thesis (Church 1932. Turing 1936) computation has largely been conceived as the algorithmically codifiable manipulation of symbols. Hobbes. 6 For an interesting overview of the various problems posed by the symbolic representation approach in AI. Scheutz 2002). conventional AI.” Computationalism is the term that I will use. 7 The first viable alternative to the symbolic representation approach is outlined in Rodney Brooks' "Intelligence without representation" and "New Approaches to Robotics (Brooks 1991.” “the computational metaphor (Stein 1999). 1997).” and “computationalism (Dietrich 1990.

and the successes of computer science can make it rather easy to anthropomorphize the process of computation. in much the same way that it has already proven to be a stumbling block in the design of artificial agents.. consists in extrapolating data from the world.” then the computer-as-itcomes—a materialization of the computationalist paradigm—already precludes 26 . therefore. If. to see in the mechanical procedure a simulacrum of human thought. coding abstractions from that data. and as the failings of AI would bear out. I will however argue that the tacit acceptance of the computationalist approach will prove to be a stumbling block in the design of computer interfaces for musical performance. the way in which we program computers to simulate real-world problems and dynamics.” Essentially. Mental activity. through the deductive manipulation of symbols that stand in for objects and operations in the world. and reasoning about the representational domain that those abstractions comprise.e. “symbol manipulation is a disembodied activity (Clark 1997: 4). with computational processes inside computers corresponding to thought processes inside minds (Agre 1997: 2). by and large. It’s beyond the scope of the present study to enter into what remains a major debate in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science over the mechanistic foundations of thought. i. It’s such a view that provided the original impetus of AI research. as Andy Clark has noted. the computationalist rubric would have it that computation is synonymous with cognition. This is. and has led to what Agre has termed “a dynamic of mutual reinforcement … between the technology of computation and the Cartesian view of human nature.At the heart of the computationalist perspective is the presumption that we reason about the world through mechanized procedure.

for the human agent. the container metaphor extends to various ways in which we conceptualize time and space. actions. Each of us is a container. and we experience the rest of the world as outside us.” setting itself in contradistinction to both the body—which 27 . coding abstractions and reasoning about a world that forever remains exterior to cognitive process. such conceptualizations come about as a result of an abstract inner space. there is no precise way of determining whether this is a matter of a symbolic overload. the “mind. one that sets an “inside” against an “outside. activities and states. With the current state of knowledge about the workings of the nervous system. The agent is. In the discourse of computationalism. whether human or artificial.the possibility of embodied forms of interaction. the agent performs manipulations on symbolic representations of the task domain in a realm of mental abstraction that is always and necessarily disconnected from the environmental niche in which activity actually takes place. aural and tactile perception. an essential dualism at the heart of the computationalist model of cognition. with a bounding surface and an in-out orientation. There is. or a “representational bottleneck” (Brooks 1991). But it’s a specific variety of dualism. (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 29) From this ontological grounding. But what can be seen in the computationalist model of representation is a fundamental objectivism in which the reasoning of the agent. is situated above and outside the environmental embedding of the agent’s body. a kind of transcendental controller. the elements of visual. then. In other words. and events. bounded and set off from the rest of the world by the surface of our skins. therefore.” It corresponds to a manner of thinking about the world that George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have identified as the container metaphor: We are physical beings.

been altered. It’s precisely because of the schism between thinking and acting that activity is sequential—the agent must form an internal represention of the domain and construct a plan before deciding on appropriate action. then.” When those plans result in behavior. these representations— along with the representations of structure that establish their logical connections. a kind of propositional calculus—are stored as the contents of the mind.is viewed as little more than a transducer of sensory experience—and the outside world. And over the iterative chain that would characterize extended activity—a chain of actions following decisions 28 . and the relationship between agent and world has. The pertinence of the container metaphor to the present study lies in the strong separation it enforces between agent and environment. “by searching through a space of potential future sequences of events. There is an inevitable delay. and these contents form the basis from which plans are constructed. between decision and action. Implicit to the container metaphor is the assumption that cognition is fundamentally distinct from perceiving and acting. using one’s world models to simulate the consequences of possible actions (Agre 2002: 132). as well as between mind and body. The “bounding surface” of the mind is traversed by sensory stimuli. and that mind and matter—in the tradition of the Cartesian res cognitans and res extensa—are necessarily separate. in some way or other. the agent reaches the end of the sequence of events that characterizes the “in-out orientation” of the mind. these stimuli are converted into representations of the world-as-perceived. The container metaphor is consistent with the mechanistic explanation. and also in the sequential model of activity that it presumes.

that few people would think to question the kind of user knowledge on which it draws. The representational domain is functionally isomorphic with the Cartesian model of mind. double-clicking. The great success of the WIMP (window. pointing device) model is due. But on examination. In order to make computers more accessible. which are in turn containers for files. by virtue of the interface. and applicable across the widest range of known and as-yet-unknown task environments.following actions—a sequence of such delays punctuates the flow of activity. clicking. The transition from textual to graphical modes of interaction with computers brought with it significant implications not only in terms of how humans and computers interact. etc. the user puts things “in” the trash. and so on. and. the workspace is a container for folders. menu. the interaction paradigm would need to be both immediately intuitive to the broadest possible range of human subjects. and so obviously effective. 29 . the user comes to encounter the virtual environment in much the same way as the Cartesian subject encounters the world. this so-called “direct manipulation” style of interaction draws explicitly on the user’s capacity to identify symbolic representations of data (files) and processes (programs).—to accomplish the tasks required by the activity domain. dropping. as least in part. but in terms of the accessibility of computing machinery to non-specialists. This is a point that I will explore more fully in the next section. and—through actions such as dragging. through an “in-out orientation” to an environment populated by well-defined objects. The graphical interface paradigm is nowadays so pervasive. to the way in which it galvanizes the user’s knowledge of the world. “opens” a file or program. icon. it reveals itself to be an instance of the container metaphor.

therefore throws up a not inconsiderable 30 . activities in which it would make sense to have an objective cognizance of the contents of the task domain. The model of the world as embodied in the interface will effectively lead to its own realization. or the sense of flow. have significant bearing on the effective accomplishment of the task at hand. the kind of representations that serve as the access points to the medium. and the user retains the status of detached controller. or for uploading files to a server.If we consider these encounters with the virtual environment in light of the constitutive role that the interface plays in determining user activity. in such a way that the focus is directed at changing or manipulating those states. When those representations stand in for the states of a task domain. The objects of the virtual environment provide the locus for interaction. they bring the user to conceive of the task domain. and to act within it. an enactive model of performance would situate the agent’s cognitive acitivities entirely within her environment. If. I take no position on the suitability of objectivist forms of representation to everyday or mundane computational tasks. An objectivist model of representational content. we are considering the suitability of the computer-as-it-comes as a musical instrument that would allow for embodied modes of interaction. which would situate the agent’s cognitive activities outside her environment. over a history of interactions. All is (most likely) well for the maintenance of a spreadsheet. we can discern that the interface. and the world models that those representations embody. By definition. however. constitute an important matter for consideration. But these are not ordinarily the types of activities in which the agent’s optimal bodily experience. will bring about the “disconnect” between agent and environment that is implicit to the container metaphor.

First. for example.media. 8 This is precisely the representational strategy behind tangible computing. 31 . More specifically. then. accessed July 25.obstacle to arriving at embodied modes of interaction. her cognizance of the interface is of the same order of abstraction as the Gibsonian affordance ("this chair affords sitting").8 The crucial point. the user of a tangible device manages to put the idea that she is interacting with a computer out of mind. however. is the form of representation. This is a point to which I will return throughout the essay. it is the difference between those forms of representations that set out to passively encode the state of the task domain.mit.edu. But there can be no practicable form of interaction with a computer without an interface. and those that would seek to structure the agent’s active involvement within the task domain. and an interface requires that the computational activity be represented in some form or other. tangible interfaces are of a very low order. even if the form of representation is the physical embodiment of the computing device itself. it’s worth examining in closer detail the costs to performance of unwittingly adopting the objectivist/computationalist model of representation that is ingrained in the methods of conventional CS and HCI. If. For numerous examples of tangible user interface devices see the website of the Tangible Media Group at MIT (http://tangible. 2006). In terms of the magnitude of representational abstraction.

and for the medium to effectively disappear9 from use. which is made upon it independently of any representation. it is to allow oneself to respond to their call.2. The Phenomenology of Perception Although the “disconnect” between agent and environment is intrinsic to the container metaphor as applied to the computationalist model of mind. And despite the ways in which the WIMP interface regulates the activities of the user. the container metaphor does not in itself account for how we experience or perceive a disconnect in. In short. A state of immersion in the task for which the tool is required leads to the 32 . Maurice Merleau-Ponty.’ and to move one’s body is to aim at things through it. when it has incorporated it into its ‘world. that is. 9 Disappearance is an important concept in Heidegger's philosophy of technology. for the experience to be that of direct manipulation of the interface contents.4 Sensing and Acting A movement is learned when the body has understood it. particulary in Being and Time (Heidegger [1927] 1962). disappearance is an indicator of the moment at which the tool user ceases to experience the tool as separate from her body. and indeed situates her in a specific and highly determined relation to the medium. musical performance with a laptop computer. it’s nonetheless entirely possible for that user to become seemingly immersed in the task environment. for example.

in the midst of activity. provide a guarantee of an embodied mode of interaction. say. As a consequence. i. by definition.e.. this would not seem to be the case in the specific example of interaction with the computer-as-it-comes. however. the tool disappears as an object of consciousness. The context of embodiment.. On closer inspection. The agent is immersed in the activity. or between abstract and direct modes of user. Immersive activity involving the computer-as-it-comes is therefore substantively different to immersive activity involving. Immersion in a virtual environment—e. as in the WIMP model—involves situating the agent’s attention and intentions squarely within that virtual world. the disconnect with the real world is proportional to the amount of attention consumed by the objects that populate the virtual world. it fulfills one of the five key criteria of embodied activity that I outlined in Chapter 1. and it would seem that there’s more to the issue than drawing a tidy distinction between the virtual and the real. and as such. a situated activity. It would even seem to follow that an immersive activity is. but it’s that very immersion that determines that the activity is not embodied. this is still a superficial treatment of a very subtle process. experiencing the tool as an extension of her body. It’s likely that an immersive activity is engaging. 33 . however.g. In itself. is the real world. the environment constituted by iconic abstractions of computational data and tasks. the environment within which the agent’s sense of embodiment arises. a conventional acoustic musical instrument.Immersion in the task environment does not. To that extent.

and in doing so diminishes the potential for involvement of the other sensory and motor modalities. and the sensorimotor habits and patterns that are engendered by those modes of transmission. it is the sensory and motor mechanisms that are called into use. menu and pointing device—play a determining role in the formation of objectivist concepts in the computer user’s cognizance of activity. at any given moment. There are two key facets to the WIMP model that guarantee that interactions with the computer-as-it-comes can never be multimodal: 1. there’s also the how of the container metaphor’s instantiation within the WIMP model. or. icon.interaction. there is only a single and discrete centre of interaction. This is where the issues of timeliness and multimodality—another two of the five key criteria of embodied activity—enter the picture. When the cursor and icon converge 34 .e. i. These are the two aspects of a mode of interaction—the typical mode of interaction with the computer-as-it-comes—that are experienced by the user as an on-going sequence of pointing. more specifically.. the hand works in tandem with the eyes to move the mouse cursor towards that icon. But it’s not simply a matter that because the interactional domain is an instance of the container metaphor. and 2. the weight of emphasis on visual forms of representation consumes a large portion of the user’s attention. I’ve already discussed the ways in which the core elements of the WIMP model of interaction—the window. The key consideration here is the modes for the transmission of signals from computer to user. As the gaze is directed towards an icon of interest to the task. and from user back to computer. clicking. the mouse or text cursor. typing and observing. the user will come to think and act in terms of the objects that populate a world exterior to cognitive process.

as a function of the ongoing accrual of competence at coordinating the sensorimotor assemblage. and no potential for the cross-coupling of distinct input channels." 35 . distributed points) interaction scenarios. see Fitzmaurice and Buxton's "An empirical evaluation of graspable user interfaces (Fitzmaurice and Buxton 1997). 10 For a comparative analysis of "time-multiplexed" (single point) vs.on the screen.10 With acoustic instrumental performance. The immediate cost of the visuocentric approach to the non-visual sensorimotor modalities is self-evident: the more cognitive resources are allocated to vision. is better adapted to meet the real-time constraints of performance. There is no concurrency of actions. "space- multiplexed" (multiple. where any action can be taken only after the prior action has been completed. But there is another aspect that is perhaps less obvious. and this is where the mode of interaction coincides with the issue of timeliness. The single point of interaction that is characteristic of the WIMP model of interaction leads to a mode of activity that is characterized by a sequential chain of discrete user gestures. it’s the various ways in which these modalities work together and exert influence upon one another. to elicit a response from the on-screen abstraction. and the way in which the performer. the fingers click on the mouse button. the flow of time is effectively segmented into discrete chunks. no possibility of operating at two or more interactional nodes simultaneously. or press keys on the keyboard. the fewer remain for the agent’s other sensors and actuators. it’s not just the concurrent use of multiple sensorimotor modalities that leads to the sense of embodiment.

in this case. let’s assume that the computer-as-it-comes is. until the objective of the task-at-hand is met. The WIMP model of interaction presumes that the user has plans “in mind. That infrastructure presumes a model of reality in which the contents of the world come prior to our behavioral engagement with the world. It may be interesting to consider if there may be potential misuses of the computer-as-it-comes that could lead to embodied interactional modes. The system of abstractions and representations that typify the WIMP model are not geared to the demands of real time. Rather.” I mean a kind of usage that in one way or another does not correspond to the usage scenarios presumed by the WIMP paradigm. 36 .” But whatever the designation. on the other hand. By “misuse. infer. step-by-step. Agency. it may be useful to draw a distinction between planning and agency. Agency.” and that these plans are to be executed. each step towards accomplishing the plan will simply take as long as it takes to sense. and act. an off-the-shelf laptop computer. building on a model of behavior in which reasoning about representations formed from sense impressions must always take place prior to action. where those constraints encompass the necessity of a timely response. is indicative of behavior that is adaptive to environmental demands and constraints. might more properly be defined as “embodied agency. it points to a mode of performance that is bluntly precluded by the representational infrastructure of the WIMP paradigm. in this specific sense.With regard to this notion of timeliness. As “laptop music” has already figured in the discussion. a sequence that the enactive approach would seek to reverse.

The structure of the interface determines that my motions will follow a type-point-click sequence. where prior experience tells me I will find the word “File.11 According to conventional WIMP practice. For the purposes of this example. a mouse cursor will appear on screen. I’ll move my second finger to the trackpad. As I’ve argued. each item will be highlighted in turn. My third finger will stop when the menu item “Save” is highlighted. and as I use my third finger to move the cursor over its contents. this kind of determination on the part of the interface will preclude embodied modes of interaction.. and again I’ll use my pointer finger to click the trackpad button. the text cursor blinks at the current text position. My finger will guide the mouse cursor to a point at the top-left region of the screen. 37 . and the number and type of trackpad buttons may also vary. inputs at these devices are coordinated by the position of the cursor on the computer screen. But with different mappings from the 11 These devices vary from one model of laptop computer to the next.” When the cursor is over that word. I’ll use my pointer finger to click the trackpad button. many laptops substitute a trackpoint for a trackpad.g. A menu will appear. and that at each step in that sequence my attention will be directed towards the single point of interaction that the interface affords. As I type these words (at my generic laptop computer). e. indicating the point at which the next character in this sequence of discrete characters is anticipated. I will assume a trackpad with a single trackpad button. When I’m done typing.The standard input devices of the generic laptop computer are the keyboard and trackpad. Upon contact.

That is. or as simple as the mapping from piano keyboard to hammer and string (one sound event per key event).g.input devices to programs—e. Mappings from keyboard events to software could be arbitrarily complex. Could this amount to an interface that affords embodied modes of interaction? The short answer is. the computer screen could be entirely dimmed.. is done away with altogether. The cursor. To minimize unnecessary distractions in performance. mappings that would subvert the inherent sequentiality of WIMP—the interface acquires new affordances. and that these points might be engaged concurrently. an affordance that was not apparent when trackpad usage was bound up with the task of directing the cursor to discrete points on the computer screen. Suppose that some piece of sound synthesis software is written. Either way. the interface affords chording. Interestingly enough. and that it’s written expressly to be used without graphical or textual feedback from the computer screen. it’s in doing away with the cursor that entirely new interactional possibilities for the keyboard and trackpad become apparent. I think. perhaps. We see that the keyboard does in fact afford multiple points of interaction. it solicits new modes of activity from the user. Mappings from trackpad input to software could afford the continuous modification of the sound events thus 38 . These misuses of the keyboard and trackpad would seem to circumvent the impediments to embodied activity that characterize the WIMP paradigm: singularity and sequentiality. then. an affordance that the blinking text cursor—along with the accumulated usage history of QWERTY technologies— had somehow hidden from view. the formation of composite events from distributed points of interaction. We also see that the trackpad affords continuous input with two degrees of freedom.

i. even. these new affordances would need to be learned. What we have changed. then. to put it out of the way of the hands.12 To situate the hands in optimal position. chording actions would be performed by the dominant hand. then. And they would need to be learned in spite of the activities the laptop has previously afforded in everyday use. especially given that users of general purpose computers 12 The role of bimanual asymmetry in interface design is discussed in 4.. and the example shows that these affordances are immanent to the map from input devices to programs. however.e. that we substitute a new map for the WIMP map. We would almost certainly push the (blank) screen to as flat a position as possible. of an embodied performance practice. The asymmetry of “handedness” would likely determine that. What’s interesting about this example is that we have not changed the physical structure of the interface. perhaps. This is not an insurmountable task. because of the fine granularity of action required of keyboard input. At the same time. we construct a new model of performance. have the beginnings of an expressive instrument. we might turn the base of the laptop at a 30-45° angle to the standard typing position. Of course. while continuous modificatory actions at the trackpad would be performed by the nondominant hand. is the potential for interaction that the interface affords. 39 .4.triggered by the keyboard. We may. and it’s in the continuity of these modifications that the inherent sequentiality of pointing and clicking would be circumvented. to any regular user of a laptop computer. we continue to use the same keyboard and trackpad that serve as the input devices in the WIMP model.

of the limited surface area of the trackpad. I did so out of a hesitation as regards the physical structure of the interface. afford embodied modes of interaction. But when I suggested that this reconfigured laptop would perhaps afford embodied modes of interaction. while the affordances of the interface have been fundamentally altered by new mappings from hardware to software. I’ve been concerned in this section with outlining the ways in which the standard interaction model of the computer-as-it-comes precludes embodied activity. accustomed to learning new patterns of interaction with each new piece of software. a force that often goes entirely unnoticed in design practice. and while it’s entirely feasible that the performer could develop a timely and multimodal mode of interaction with this new interface. and so on. of the arrangement of keys not being conducive to chording. One of the hazards of design is the weight of convention on current practice. and to leave unanswered the question as to whether this general purpose device might.are. And this possibility provides enough incentive to turn attention towards the design of special purpose devices. there seems a reasonable possibility that the instrument will not be engaging over a sustained period of practice. Or. it may simply be an issue of the instrument’s failure to be properly indicative of use (a topic I will discuss in Chapter 4). of the trackpad’s proximity to the keyboard. under certain circumstance. That is. Whatever the explanation. to a certain. there nonetheless remains some physical property of the interface that would seem to be opposed to the development of an embodied performance practice. limited degree. It seems to me that it’s this very force—and the widespread failure to notice it—that has led 40 . This may be an issue of the limited potential for resistance in the keyboard’s pushbutton mechanism.

An enactive. primary and secondary instrumentalization respectively correspond to "essentialist" and "constructivist" orientations of human to medium (Feenberg 1999. will need to arrive at an alternative interactional paradigm to that of the computer-as-it-comes. these softwares also buy unwittingly into a model of performance that places abstract reasoning prior to action. In doing so.” and “the realization of the constituted objects and subjects in actual technical networks and devices (Feenberg 1999: 202). One of the main objectives of this study is to outline a sketch of one such alternative. This something is an object. Difference and Repetition Andrew Feenberg draws a distinction between a “primary” and a “secondary instrumentalization. a model that inevitably leads to a disembodied mode of interaction.5 Functional and Realizational Interfaces Something in the world forces us to think.”13 In terms of the implementation of interfaces. the core difference between the primary and the secondary instrumentalization lies in the way that the task 13 In Feenberg's scheme. then. 41 . 2. but of a fundamental encounter.to numerous music softwares that buy unwittingly into the model of interaction that is implicit to the WIMP paradigm.” which respectively consist in “the functional constitution of technical objects and subjects. embodied agent-based model of interaction. not of recognition. — Gilles Deleuze. 2000).

and is conducive to dynamic and indeterminate forms of interaction. While Feenberg correlates the secondary instrumentalization with a broadly socialist utopian project. on the other hand. the accomplishment of the task. In short. The realizational interface (secondary instrumentalization). in the process. There are a great many task environments in which it makes sense to facilitate. brings with it the possibility of continuously realizing new encounters and uses. The welldesigned functional interface conceals the specific mechanics of the task. be static. of redetermining the relationship between technical objects and their human subjects. for example. or functionalism. in the interest of maximizing the potential for continued existence. The functional interface (primary instrumentalization) serves a predetermined function. and. and presents the user with possibilities for action that draw on familiar and often rehearsed patterns of experience and use. realization is a form of play. presents a situation in which human agency is best served by an immutable function-relation between the elements of the interface and the range of possible outcomes that the interface represents. he is nonetheless careful to point out that the primary instrumentalization. Landing an airplane. the representational correspondence of the interface to the world—i. the correlation between the system of interface metaphors and the system of real-world objects and operations for which those metaphors stand—should. it is structured around a finite set of interactions which are known in advance of the task’s execution. 42 . as transparently as possible. The realizational domain encompasses the contexts of meaning and signification in which human and medium are embedded.e.domain is structured. still has it uses.

To that end. Indeed. and it’s of no use to involve her in forms of play. as the task environment obtains its coherence through the system of representations that comprise the interface. the user comes to conceptualize the task directly in terms of what is represented. the tool becomes "equipment" at the moment of its disappearance in use. it becomes equipment. and instead become the intrinsic elements of the task itself. In terms of meeting the various constraints and demands of the task environment.Efficiency is key to the functionalist approach. it takes on an artificial transparency through its very leveraging of the user’s experience. Functionalism aims to minimize the cognitive load. That is. the well-designed functionalist interface is comprised of representations that are immediately familiar to the user. and continues to be constitutive of the structural relation of technical object and human subject. And while the interface is evidently not at all 14 In Heidegger's terminology.14 This situates the user in an interesting position. The cognitive effort is at its optimal minimum when the representations have a directly recognizable corollary in the user’s prior experience of the world. but the medium is still very much present. the ideal functionalist interface would have the user convinced that it consists of no representations at all. and the interface effectively disappears in use. She is immersed in what would appear to be the im-mediacy of the task. the representations cease to be denotative. it’s of no use to have the user waste time on the parsing of a complex metaphorical system. 43 . At that moment the task is conflated with the metaphorical domain in which it is represented.

defines an interactional context in which significance—at least ideally—is invariable. 2006). and is not conducive to dynamic and indeterminate forms of interaction. In contradistinction to the domain of realization.apple. Holland. accessed March 20. The model of computer interface design known as “direct manipulation” (Norman. 44 . In leveraging the user’s experience of the world. the interface directs her towards a set of predetermined expectations as regards performance. 1999. the more effectively it corresponds to the ideal of functionalist efficiency. the functionalist domain does not encompass the contexts of meaning and signification in which human and medium are embedded. among other things—already has the aim of the usage enterprise built 15 For an implementation guide to the "direct manipulation" model of computer interface design. It minimizes the cognitive demand and. the more it seems to be transparent.transparent to the task domain. then.com/documentation/mac/HIGuidelines/HIGuidelines-2. and Hutchins 1986) 15—the model in which the user drags graphical representations of files into graphical representations of folders. at the same time. Norman and Draper 1986). The idea of leveraging experience in order to minimize the strain that the interface places on the user’s cognitive apparatus is a hallmark of “user-centered design” (Norman 1986. see "The Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines" (http://developer. Functionalism has become a standard metric in the evaluation of the successes and shortcomings of computer interfaces. and the extent to which the interface disappears from the user’s attention constitutes the key criteria for the success of such approaches.html.

One of the key aspects of this paradigmatically embodied form of activity is its immediacy. the realizational approach would suggest that the interface offers some form of resistance to the user. In thinking about designing interfaces for musical performance. In much the same way that it makes little sense to employ dynamic and indeterminate forms of interaction when landing an airplane. things work best when the user believes that. it makes little sense to do so when balancing a computerized bank account or uploading a file to a server. in task environments where the task-at-hand is better served by a realizational approach. and it would seem self-evident that the more the 45 . But there is a danger. These are tasks in which the activity is better served by invariable representations. It’s entirely possible that the functionalist approach is optimally effective across a broad range of routine computational task environments. that it should be irrevocably present. we are dealing with such a task environment. rather than manipulating symbolic abstractions.e. and in which the degree of efficiency with which the task may be accomplished is inversely proportional to the amount of user attention that is consumed by the interface. that the functionalist approach is adopted in task environments where it is not well-suited. she is in fact working directly with the objects of the task domain. i. That is.e.. this would seem to be at odds with the notion of flow.. Where Donald Norman and other key figures in “user-centered design” champion the disappearance of the interface. with functionalism becoming something of a de facto standard in interaction design. At first glance.into the blanketing term. i.

and so on. energy that is experienced by the musician as sound.medium obtrudes in use.” The cognitive dimension is central to the process. the sense of im-mediacy experienced when the agent is immersed in the act of hammering—the sense that the hammer is not a distinct object. While the sense of embodiment may be enhanced. It’s at this point that it’s useful to draw a distinction between embodied action and enaction. or even optimal. And it is in this that the hammer is not a realizational interface. weight. and it is precisely where enaction and realization coincide. but an extension of the agent’s sensorimotor mechanism—is indicative of that agent’s embodiment in action. and hammering is not enactive. how is that. the instrument responds with proportionate energy. when the agent successfully responds to cognitive challenges. but it is not necessarily engaging. the musician adapts her bodily dispositions to the ways in which the instrument 46 . To return to Francisco Varela’s formulation. exactly how is the potential for realization embedded in the the instrumental interface? Or. enaction involves the “bringing forth of a world. the less im-mediate the activity. As the musician transmits kinetic energy into the mechanism. Over a sustained period of time. For example. say. such cognitive challenges are not prerequisite to embodied activity. But once the agent has acquired a sufficient degree of performative competence at hammering. Hammering may be immediate and immersive. the task ceases to present her with cognitive challenges. There is a “push and pull” between musician and instrument. a violin is substantively different to a hammer? The short answer is in the way in which the musician’s intentionality is coupled to the instrument’s specific and immanent kinds of resistance. This raises an obvious question: if performance with conventional acoustic musical instruments is enactive. haptic resistance.

then. as much as they are determined by the resistance offered by the instrument. functionalism would correspond to a “functional attitude. Rather. 47 . and ignores the constitutive role that the interface plays in the emergence of intentional and behavioral patterns. offers resistance to the agent.” But this view does not consider the specific dynamic properties of resistance that are embodied in the interface.e. The hammer. to the instrument’s dynamical responsiveness. i. carefully adapting her bodily dispositions to its dynamic properties of resistance over a period of many years of thoughtful rehearsal. But this still doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation of how the potential for realization is somehow embodied in one interface but not another. it would seem meaningless to talk of functional and realizational interfaces. at some point. she will either abandon the instrument for a medium that offers greater potential for realization. At one level. like the violin. and the cognitive dimension continues to be central to the process of adaptation. But it’s likely that.” and realization would likewise correspond to a “realizational attitude.. or she will make modifications to the instrument that would better serve that realizational potential. it presumes a neutrality of the interface to human intentionality. It’s because the musician sets out to realize something—to actively participate in embodied practices of signification—that her adaptation follows a unique trajectory. An agent could very well set about developing a musical performance practice with a hammer. are also determined by the musician’s intentionality. It’s important to note that these adaptations. and instead to view the entire process as a matter of the agent’s intentionality.resists.

it assumes open-ended. In the simulation of the various networks of excitors and resonators that constitute the physical mechanisms of acoustic instruments. and in the carefully considered mapping of the parameters of those synthesis primitives to tactile controllers. considered as interface. Although music has its obvious functional uses in late capitalist society.e.. fluid. As such. and at the same time sufficiently coherent. and for the “bringing forth of a world”—is effectively maximized. artifacts and humans—are constituted through an ongoing process of mutual specification and determination. the integration of force feedback within the controller apparatus. and as such requires the ongoing cognitive involvement of the musician. the potential for realization—for embodied forms of signification. The hammer has been constituted to serve a largely predetermined functional agenda: hammering. it is advantageous that the hammer. both technical objects and subjects— i. and so on. Approaches to digital musical instrument design that set out to model the dynamics of conventional acoustic instruments by and large circumvent the pitfalls of de facto functionalism. the model of musical performance that is of specific interest to the present study is realizational.To return to Feenberg’s specification. presents minimal cognitive demands on the agent. and at least partly indeterminate processes of signification. that they coincide optimally with the musician’s intentionality. In requiring that the musician’s ongoing cognitive involvement is central to the process of adaptation to the instrument’s dynamics. A majority of conventional acoustic musical instruments have been constituted in such a way that the dynamic properties of their resistance are sufficiently complex. But the 48 . an interface is constituted that comes close to the realizational potential of the real world instrument that it models.

this means interfaces that embody the prospect of enaction. the basic idea is nonetheless to arrive at a practice that fully engages the new prospects for performance that are indigenous to computing media. The discourse of functionalism is implicit to the discourse of conventional humancomputer interaction design. this can only be an impediment to arriving at technologies that maximize the potential for realization. but rather a matter of the various and complex dependencies between action. 49 .6 Conclusion To reiterate my key criteria from Chapter 1: embodied activity is situated. timely. in a purely enactivist sense. 2. This calls for an alternative discourse. This is not just a matter of action. and engaging. and alternative approaches to design. multimodal.main focus of this study is to outline a foundation for the design of digital musical instruments that is more general than the physical modeling of existing instruments. The sense of embodiment over a history of interactions within a phenomenal domain emerges at the point where these various constraints intersect. Or. of the inseparability of action. As I have attempted to show. This is why I have considered it important to distinguish between functional and realizational modes of interaction. and cognition. perception. and cognition. In the specific case of musical performance. perception. And while there is much to be learned through analyzing the dynamical properties of conventional instruments.

When all or most of these criteria fail to be met. presumes a model of activity that is anything but engaging or challenging to the agent. and at the same time to regulate the actions of the user in such a way that time is discretized into repeating units of sensing and acting. and situate the user squarely “outside” the interactional domain. we will need to systematically rethink the world models that are embedded in the interface to the computer-as-it-comes.What I have set out to show in this chapter is the various ways in which the computer-as-it-comes is a far from ideal medium in terms of meeting the criteria of embodied activity. To arrive at an enactive model of musical interaction. Further. This will be my task for the remainder of the essay. The WIMP model serves to enforce this separation. in my view. The objectivist foundations of conventional HCI presume a strong separation between user and device. no possibility for the kind of interactive and circular processes of emergence that are characteristic of enaction. the predominant notion of human-computer interaction design. and then looking at the ways in which such a model could be materialized in an instrument that would necessarily be something other than the-computer-as-it-comes. then. which would aim to reduce the cognitive load on the agent and make the interface disappear from use. 50 . there is. Overcoming the disconnect that the computer-as-it-comes enforces between human and instrument will require elaborating an alternative world model. or embodied cognition. where the locus of interaction is almost invariably unimodal.

— Maurice Merleau-Ponty. dispositions and behaviors emerge over a history of interactions.3 Enaction The body is our general medium for having a world. to draw hard dividing lines between action and cognition. and therefore also in any provisional description of the elements and processes of enaction.1 Two Persistent Dualisms In Chapter 2. and instead stressed the inseparability of one from the other. or between body and mind. But in any attempt to describe such interactions. The Phenomenology of Perception 3. when examining an interactional context with a view to enactive process. I suggested that it would make little sense. our descriptions inevitably land squarely at the boundary between agent and environment. particularly when attempting to discern the adaptive process that sees a complex set of ever-more refined skills. I also suggested that it makes little sense to discuss agent and environment in isolation. But these hard dividing lines persist in our language. And so in the same way that we 51 .

will ultimately lead us back to a primary disconnect. then. It is a variety of experience that comes prior to description. and Rosch 1991: 116). it involves “the processual transformation of the past into the future through the intermediary of transitional forms that in themselves have no permanent substance (Varela. and in which new systems and structures continuously emerge and disappear in the midst of interactional unfolding. permeated as it is by the inherent dualisms of Western philosophical and scientific discourse.insert a hard dividing line between body and mind. In other words. Enaction involves a temporality in which relations are constantly in flux. On the face of it. it’s difficult to describe. The specific variety of experience that I’ve set out to describe—this paradigmatically embodied. any notion of “direct experience. and prior to any clear 52 . it does not necessarily follow that “direct experience”—however that may be defined—does not factor among those varieties of human experience for which we may or may not already have an adequate terminology. immersive and engaged experience—is fundamentally about activities that are always in a state of becoming. it will lead us to two disconnects: between mind and body. and which are therefore not at all easy to define in dualist. abstract and objectivist terms. This presents a problem. But while philosophical language may be geared in such a way that describing experience necessarily involves dualist. abstract and objectivist terms.” The directness of experience. resides in the “nowness” of the experiential present.” Disconnection would seem to be the order of the day. Or rather. it would seem that our language. As long as the body is opposed to both mind and world. Thompson. and between body and world. much less defend. we tacitly delineate a neat separation between body and world.

determination of the subject, or of those objects and opportunities for action that make up that (transitional) subject’s environment. In attempting to define “direct experience,” then, we encounter a paradox. Direct experience implies a provisional and temporary state of being that is always and necessarily resistant to ontological reduction. I would even go so far as to say that the “nowness” of the lived present is that which makes direct experience, by definition, preontological. But as soon as we attempt to describe the systems and structures of direct experience, we introduce ontological categories. It’s in this that we see the intrinsic paradox of the description: there can be no notion of that which is direct without casting experience in abstract terms. This is likely to be the source of some confusion. And given that one of the primary motivations behind the present study is to outline a philosophical foundation for design, it will not help if the key philosophical concepts are poorly defined or potentially misleading. Fortunately, questions such as these are not without precedent; there is a branch of philosophy that has dealt systematically with direct experience, and it has done so within the context of a well-defined dualist discourse. In the transcendental phenomenology of Husserl,1 the existential phenomenology of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, and in the latter day

1

Although Husserl does not figure very significantly in this study, I mention him

because he is acknowledged as the founding figure of European phenomenology, and had a direct influence on the thinking of both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty.

53

reworking of both European and Buddhist phenomenology2 in enactive cognitive science and so-called postphenomenology,3 the apparent paradox of a dualistic description of unreflective behaviour is dealt with comprehensively. Phenomenology, in its various manifestations, is a vast and complex field, and it’s beyond the scope of this essay to cover any of its myriad branches of inquiry in any significant manner. However, there are two key concepts, from two quite different moments in the phenomenological tradition, which are particularly useful to the model of interaction that I am attempting to describe. Double embodiment and structural coupling—both of which terms already point to a fundamental dualism prior to their elaboration—respectively address the mind/body and body/world problems in direct experience. In outlining them here, I hope to clear up any confusion as to how the dualism that resides in any description of embodied action is substantively different from the disembodied dualism that lies at the heart of the computationalist perspective. This should bring us to a point where, after having established a disconnect in our descriptions, we come to see how that disconnect ceases to exist in the flux of

2

The philosophy of Nagarjuna, for example, and of the Madhyamika tradition in

Buddhist thought, figures significantly in Varela, Rosch and Thompson's outline of "codependent arising," and its implications for subjectivity (Varela, Thompson, and Rosch 1991).
3

Postphenomenology is a term introduced by, and most often associated with,

philosopher Don Ihde (Ihde 1983, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2002).

54

embodied action, and in the experiential merging of self and world. I should note that I am not attempting to construct a new theory of the mind/body problem here, or even to weigh into the debate. Rather, the objective is pragmatic: to outline some core theoretical issues with a view to opening up a space for new digital musical instrument design scenarios.

3.2

Double Embodiment

As long as the body is defined in terms of existence in-itself, it functions uniformly like a mechanism, and as long as the mind is defined in terms of pure existence for-itself, it knows only objects arrayed before it. — Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception

In his analysis of tool use in Being and Time (Heidegger [1927] 1962), Heidegger draws a famous distinction between the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand. The ready-to-hand indicates an essentially pragmatic relation between user and tool. It is when the tool disappears, i.e., when it has the status of equipment, that the user engages the task environment via the ready-to-hand. The relation, then, is not about a human subject and an “object” of perception. Rather, it is about that object’s “withdrawal” into the experiential unity of the actional context:
The peculiarity of what is proximally ready-to-hand is that, it must, as it were, withdraw in order to be ready-to-hand quite authentically. That with which our

55

or if there is a nail to be driven and the hammer cannot be found (Winograd and Flores 1986: 36). that with which we concern ourselves primarily is the work. in Heidegger’s more often used term. the hammer is invisibly folded into the continuum of direct experience. With this obstinacy. The moment of its acquiring the status of object coincides with a disturbance to the accomplishment of the purpose for which the activity. i. (Heidegger [1927] 1962: 99) The ready-to-hand implies an engaged and embodied flow of activity. and enables us to see the obstinacy of that with which we must concern ourselves in the first instance before we do anything else.e. the presence-at-hand of the ready-to-hand makes itself known in a new way as the Being of that which lies before us and calls for our attending to it. The human is caught up in what Hubert Dreyfus has called “absorbed coping (Dreyfus 1993: 27). it acquires “hammerness. or. in the first instance. then.” only “if it breaks or slips from grasp or mars the wood. but rather disappears into the purposefulness of action.” It’s only when this flow of activity is disturbed by some kind of technological breakdown that the apparently seamless continuity between user and tool is broken. present-at-hand: Anything which is un-ready-to-hand … is disturbing to us. It has no objectness in itself. In the moment of breaking down the tool becomes un-ready-to-hand.everyday dealings proximally dwell is not the tools themselves. On the contrary.. was undertaken: 56 .” Prior to the technological breakdown. (Heidegger [1927] 1962: 102) The hammer appears as an object of consciousness.

Thompson. or a double embodiment. who in turn base their coinage on Merleau-Ponty's notion of embodiment: We hold with Merleau-Ponty that Western scientific culture requires that we see our bodies both as physical structures and as lived. Thompson and Rosch's The Embodied Mind (Varela. and to reflect on the context in which action and intention is embedded. There is a back-andforth in experience. 57 . (Heidegger [1927] 1962: 105) Hubert Dreyfus recasts Heidegger’s distinction between the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand in psychological terms.4 4 I borrow the term "double embodiment" from Varela.When an assignment has been disturbed—when something is unusable for some purpose—then the assignment becomes explicit. These two sides of embodiment are obviously not opposed. immediate experience is supplanted by abstract and reflective experience when the tool user is necessitated by a breakdown to perceive the tool in abstract terms. Instead. then. That both modes are experienced by the same body points to a fundamental duality of embodied experience. He suggests that it is only when purposeful activity is disturbed that “a conscious subject with self-referential mental states directed toward determinate objects with properties gradually emerges (Dreyfus 1991: 71). we continuously circulate back and forth between them." biological and phenomenological. between direct and abstract modes of engaging the world. and Rosch 1991). experiential structures—in short. as both "outer" and "inner. Merleau-Ponty recognized that we cannot understand this circulation without a detailed investigation of its fundamental axis.” That is. direct.

With double embodiment. An enactive model of cognition does not. and inherently paradoxical. According to the computationalist perspective. the body must necessarily “contain” cognition. distinction.” an idea that. It does not. it would seem contradictory to speak of abstract reflection as a subset of embodied experience. then. for example. This seemingly paradoxical state of affairs is captured in Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the “practical cogito (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2004). abstract reflection would seem to be more or less identical in function to the disembodied reasoning of the computationalist model of cognition that I outlined in Chapter 2. and experience. (Varela. for example—the experience of disembodiment is quite literally embodied by the reflective subject. Thompson. by locating cognitive process entirely within the mechanisms of the body as lived. the computationalist model of cognition does not account for unreflective experience. Further. There are two critical points here in arriving at a fairly subtle. First. Second. Rather. in a namely. such a state of affairs arises only when the flow of unreflective activity is interrupted. all activity is mediated by internal representations of the task domain. and Rosch 1991:xv-xvi) 58 . cognition. dismiss the reflective state of disembodied reason. satisfy the criteria of embodied activity that I laid out in Chapter 1. the embodiment of knowledge. To the extent that abstract reflection forms part of lived experience—at the moment of a technological breakdown. it encompasses it within the lived experience of the doubly embodied agent at large in the world. and reasoning about potential courses of action.At first glance.

have termed “a fundamental circularity (Varela. and Rosch 1991). and of her body’s objective relations to the objects arrayed before it. a contradiction. but the contradiction disappears…if we operate in time. Enaction does admit a mind/body dualism. it is through this circulating back and forth. and with the placement of an “I can” prior to the “I think (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2004: 137). actional and cognitive skills develop.single turn of phrase. Thompson. as for Heidegger. For Merleau-Ponty. the phenomenological project is in the first instance concerned with reversing the Cartesian axiom.” But the moment in which the agent becomes subjectively conscious of her body.” Indeed. and Rosch 1991: xv). “These two sides of embodiment are obviously not opposed. Instead. hand in hand. indeed. And in the unfolding of being that conforms to the enactive model of cognition. as long as we operate within being. then. Thompson.” that perceptual. and if we manage to understand time as the measure of being. experiential structure and the body as the context or milieu of cognitive mechanisms (Varela. encompasses both reflective and unreflective experience. with the substitution of practical understanding for abstract understanding. is only ever 59 . (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2004: 330) Embodied being. and Rosch 1991: xvi). we continuously circulate back and forth between them (Varela.” The crucial factor in addressing the apparent contradiction between direct action and abstract reflection is to situate both within the context of the unfolding of activity and cognitive skill in a temporal context: There is. Thompson. through what Varela et al. then: it “encompasses both the body as a lived. encompasses both direct action and abstract reflection.

attention should be 5 Winograd and Flores present an extensive analysis of the conventional metaphors of computer science in relation to a Heideggerean ontology in Understanding Computers and Cognition (Winograd and Flores 1986). But that form of direct experience that Heidegger termed the ready-to-hand—a notion that is more or less synonymous with the notion of embodied activity that I outlined in Chapter 1. a disconnect that is reinforced by the symbolic representationalist underpinnings of conventional computer interfaces. What I have endeavored to show here is that this disconnect is a factor in experience. and is our natural way of galvanizing tools and working within our everyday environments— is missing from the conventional interactional paradigms with the computer-as-itcomes. rather. At the moment that activity resumes. 1999). Hamman 1997. As I argued in Chapter 2. it should not be discounted. engaging.transitory. and so when turning to design. timely. rather than the processes of real-time music production (performance) with which I am specifically concerned. it keeps the user in a state of disconnection from the tool. they also place emphasis on non-real-time music production (composition). multimodal. and its objects withdraw into the immediacy of the task. In short. the computer-as-it-comes precludes embodied forms of activity. the body recedes into the background. It does not allow for a motility that is situated. 60 . that with a view to designing enactive instruments. I suggest.5 While some authors have suggested that we should explicitly factor the Heideggerean breakdown into our music interface models (Di Scipio 1997.

the measure will be resistance.3 Structural Coupling The world is inseparable from the subject.5) I outline this adaptive process in detail with specific reference to the role of breakdowns. As with the hammer. then. Such breakdowns are essential.6 My focus. 61 . for example. The Phenomenology of Perception Although I’ve already suggested that double embodiment and structural coupling address. In terms of the technical implementation. but from a world which the subject itself projects. — Maurice Merleau-Ponty. but rather at engineering the potential for the desired kind of breakdowns. and the subject is inseparable from the world. we can expect that breakdowns will happen in the course of everyday practice. to the incremental adaptive process of learning to play a conventional acoustic instrument.directed at maximizing the potential for fully engaged and direct experience. respectively. but from a subject which is nothing but a project of the world. when turning to issues of design. 3. will not be directed at engineering breakdowns. or with any other tool. mind/body and body/world dualisms. The world 6 Later in the chapter (3. it would be more accurate to say that both double embodiment and structural coupling address the mind/body/world continuum with an emphasis on different processes.

In much the same way.. 1987). and hence the structure of their interactions. the mind figures in structural coupling: it is the locus of cognitive emergence over a history of interactions between body and world. with a view to their mutual adaptation and coevolution. it addressed the circular and reciprocal nature of these interactions. as the organism and the environment exchange matter and energy. But where the emphasis in double embodiment is on the oscillatory nature of mental engagement in an interactional context. it enforces a separation—in order to demonstrate the inseparability of one from the other in the unfolding of a coextensive interactional milieu. It presented an analysis of the interactions between an organism and its environment (where the environment may include other organisms). More specifically. The process is captured neatly in Maturana and Varela’s definition of an autopoietic machine: An autopoietic machine is a machine organized (defined as a unity) as a network of processes of production (transformation and destruction) of components that 62 . structural coupling draws a dividing line between body and world in description and schematization—i. the concept of structural coupling was applied to evolutionary biology.e. The coupling between organism and environment is “structural” because. their respective structures. are changed as a function of the exchange. In early formulations (Maturana and Varela 1980. More specifically.obviously figures in the double embodiment analysis: it is the context in which action is embedded. the emphasis in structural coupling is on the circular processes of causation and specification that pertain between the agent and the environment. and in the emergence of performative and cognitive patterns and competencies.

In contrast to the computationalist subject— who reasons about an external world in an internal domain of symbolic representation—the enactive subject actively realizes the world through the connection of the nervous system to the sensory and motor surfaces which. Thompson. and (ii) constitute it (the machine) as a concrete unity in the space in which they (the components) exist by specifying the topological domain of its realization as such a network. by the agent.. in turn. or enacted. In Varela.e.produce the components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them. there is an increasing regularization of structure. (Varela. traverses the divide between agent and environment. Rosch and Thompson’s formulation. Structural coupling is a key component of the enactivist model of cognition. a continuous realization of “the network of processes. emphasizes the 63 . The fully developed notion of structural coupling. and Rosch 1991: 206) The world that is brought forth. (Maturana and Varela 1980: 78-79) Over a history of exchanges between organism and environment. connect the embodied agent to the environment within the course of action. and such that those exchanges strengthen the conditions for continued interaction. i. it is the very mechanism by which cognitive properties emerge: Question 1: What is cognition? Answer: Enaction: A history of structural coupling that brings forth a world.” such that both organism and environment are more viably adapted to productive exchange. then.

The contingencies and specificities of the agent’s embodiment form one such constraint. a quality that is tidily encapsulated in a schematization by Hillel Chiel and Randall Beer (Figure 3. 64 . The dividing line is rather more pliable. and this is where the “hard dividing line” that we may draw between them must necessarily be qualified. and offers an explanation as to how repetitive contacts at these points of intersection can lead to incrementally more complex states of functioning on the part of the cognitive system. and it is a constraint that is in an ongoing state of transformation as the agent acquires and develops motor skills. but at the same time locates the points at which agent and environment intersect. This push and pull between agent and environment has a dynamic contour. structural coupling implies physical constraints and feedback. and these forces act upon the agent’s body within the course of activity. or finds herself in new or changing environments with new or changing actional priorities.inseparability of agent and environment in embodied cognition. and so play a critical role in the emergence of embodied practices and habits.1). There is a certain push and pull of physical forces between agent and environment that constitutes a critical aspect of their structural coupling. In other words. Physical constraints also exist within the environment.

complicated. the body. There is. Chiel and Bier’s commentary: The nervous system (NS) is embedded within a body. which in turn is embedded within the environment. The nervous system. and contains the nervous system. and the environment (from Chiel and Beer (1997)). In Chiel and Beer’s diagram.1. The push and pull between each of the components in the interactional domain is indicated by projecting triangular regions. The “body” consists of sensory inputs and motor outputs. and the environment are each rich. which is connected to the sensorimotor surface through the same dynamical “push-pull” patterns that connect the body to the environment. but they are not rigid. the body (sensorimotor surfaces). and between nervous system and body. are clearly distinct.Figure 3. and adaptive behavior emerges from the interactions of all three systems. and vice versa. It’s clear that a “push” on one side of the body-environment divide results in a proportionate “pull” on the other. highly structured dynamical systems. the dividing lines between body and environment. a fluid complementarity between environment. 65 . Interactions between the nervous system. then. which are coupled to one another.

Although it doesn’t form an explicit part of Varela and Maturana’s original formulation. It’s a perspective that has also been adopted by a handful of cognitive scientists as an explanatory mechanism for the emergence of cognitive structures through interactional dynamics (Hutchins 1995. Beer has suggested that when embodied agent and environment are coupled through interaction. What we see is a transfer function—a map—from agent to environment and back again. 1997). 66 . and nervous system. and vice versa. that. or even random behavior. To capture the properly dynamical nature of this complementarity. These kinds of exchanges may be more or less stable in terms of the impact of environmental dynamics on agent dynamics. the dynamical systems approach provides a potentially useful way of both understanding and schematizing structural coupling. depending on the potential complexity of balancing the intentionality of the agent with the environmental contingencies. the diagram would need to be animated. And they may demand more or less of the agent’s cognitive resources. Thelen 1994). of which Chiel and Beer’s diagram provides an instantaneous snapshot. they form a nonautonomous dynamical system (Beer 1996. and these motions would provide a view of the continuous balancing of energies between agent and environment as the play of physically constrained action unfolds over time. nonlinear. We would then see the projecting triangular regions extend and contract in regular (though not necessarily periodic) oscillatory patterns. from one interaction to the next.body. I will return to this point in my outline of implementational models in Chapter 4. may exhibit linear.

back within the computationalist model of rationally guided action. the agent. it’s rather easy to view them in isolation. their bounding surfaces. to emphasize the inseparability of agent and environment. But what distinguishes the enactive model from the computationalist model is the formation of a larger unity between agent and world through dynamical processes of embodied interaction and adaptation. and to understand their respective behaviors as self-contained properties of autonomous systems. This lands us.e. to locate the points at which agent and environment intersect. rather than being lived through a world of abstract inner contemplation. We will see a disconnect in schematizations of both the computationalist and the enactive models of action. is lived directly at the points where the sensorimotor system coincides with the environment in which it is embedded. Although we can delineate the boundary between agent and environment in an abstract diagram of their interactional milieu. such a diagram will not capture the experiential aspect of embodied interaction. Therefore. on the other.There are two fundamental and seemingly contradictory points to viewing interactions between an embodied agent and its environment as a process of structural coupling: 1. it’s precisely the point at which the mechanics of the agentenvironment connection need to be described. These processes are characterized by crossings of the divide. The danger with the analytic part of this formulation is that. and by a form of experience that. as soon as we’ve drawn the dividing line between agent and environment. On one side. The agent does not feel herself to be separate from the world in which she is acting but. i. 67 . the world. more or less. rather. by the “push and pull” between coupled physical systems. and 2.

therefore. when the five criteria of embodied activity (Chapter 1) are met. be key to the model of enactive musical performance that I am proposing. Structural coupling between performer and instrument will. 68 . As Thelen and Smith point out (Thelen 1994). 7 To be more precise. amounts to the moment at which the original severance.” I would argue that. the first four criteria of embodied activity would form a structurally coupled system. the emergence of cognitive. a structurally coupled system is inevitably formed. ceases to factor in the agent’s experience. of an organismic continuity between agent and environment. The body is not “as it in fact is.is intimately folded into its dynamics and processes.” that is. structural coupling implies enaction. as a matter of definition. or disconnect. The “bringing forth of a world. a virtual body with its phenomenal ‘place’ defined by its task and situation (Merleau-Ponty [1945] 2004: 250). as a thing in objective space.” but rather constitutes “a system of possible actions.7 To this extent (and in keeping with Varela. and an essential criterion in design. and the fifth--embodiment is an emergent phenomenon-would come for free. perceptual and actional abilities constitute the teleological dimension of structural coupling. Thompson and Rosch’s formulation). and vice versa.

then. the diagrams focus specifically on human-computer interaction.2) that can be taken to hold for all subsequent models. 69 . but remain both general and nonspecific in terms of hardware and software implementation details (i. The leap from theory to implementation is almost always a shaky endeavor.. with the intention of holding this model in view when shifting the focus to implementation. the computer transmits output signals representing the state of its programs which are perceived by the human. is to arrive at a candidate model of enactive interaction. it may prove useful to outline the various models of interaction that I’ve discussed to this point in the form of diagrams. There is a basic model of human-computer interaction (figure 3. with a view to distinguishing their various implications for the development of human cognition and action. In turn. The human performs actions at the inputs to the computer which cause changes to the state of the computer’s programs. But before turning to issues of the design and implementation of enactive digital musical instruments.4 Towards an Enactive Model of Interaction The key theoretical components of the essay have now been presented. It’s the dynamics of the various models of interaction between human and computer that form the key concern. the interface).e. To that end. The underlying rationale. and the models that I present here may serve as a provisional and necessarily speculative bridging of the gap between theory and praxis.3.

the input and output devices constitute the interface to the programs running on the computer. 70 . In fact. But there is nothing to link perception to action. The basic model is.8 it can also be assumed 8 To say that the basic mechanics is unchanging is not to say that the interfaces will be identical. and therefore demonstrates intentionality. the usefulness of the model lies solely in specifying the basic mechanics of human-computer interaction. The basic model of the human-computer interaction loop.HUMAN PERCEPTION COMPUTER OUTPUT S PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. S represents the map from the state of the computer’s output devices to the human’s sensory inputs. Together. however. and M represents the map from the human’s motor activities to the state of the computer’s input devices. incomplete.2. and as these mechanics can be assumed to be unchanging for all subsequent models. The basic mechanics can be taken to mean the maps from output to perception. although a cognitive dimension is implied. the model does not account for it. That is. The human perceives and acts.

and a and from action to input. we need only insert human reasoning between perceiving and acting (figure 3. this means the map between perception and action. resulting in a sequential chain of actions.3. Human actions follow after inner reasoning about sensory inputs. For present purposes. Different interfaces will result in different map dynamics.that the subsequent models will be distinguished solely by cognitive considerations. The basic model extended to include the model of human activity in conventional HCI. HUMAN PERCEPTION COMPUTER OUTPUT S REASONING PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. 71 . To make the step from the basic model to the conventional model of humancomputer interaction.3). perception and action. and these dynamics will in turn carry different sets of implications for cognition.

When these factors combine in the form of a device. we have what I have termed “the computer-as-it-comes. To this extent. Although they are not detailed in figure 3. input devices are ordinarily monomodal and geared to a single focal point of motor activity (from one moment to the next.3.” It can effectively be guaranteed that interactions with the computer-as-it-comes will be disembodied.9 The conventional model presumes that the human reasons about her interactions with the computer in an inner world of mental abstraction.” respectively as “Input. we could even relabel “Perception.” and “Action.” We now have a schematization of the Cartesian subject in the midst of interaction.” “Programs. the duration of which is simply as long as it takes to perform the necessary mental computations. and output devices are ordinarily visuocentric and geared to a single focal display point (the cursor).segmentation of the flow of time (see Chapter 2. either the mouse or the keyboard).4).” 72 . and it’s interesting to note the upside-down symmetry on either side of the human/computer divide. 9 In the spirit of mechanistic philosophy. at least according to the minimal criteria I set down for embodied activity in Chapter 1. it can be assumed that the input and output devices of conventional HCI serve to reinforce the computationalist ontology from which conventional HCI derives.” “Reasoning. This model is paradigmatic of what I have termed “the computer-as-it-comes.” and “Output. There is therefore an inevitable time delay between perception and action.

It can also be assumed that there are no real-time constraints on the accessing of this knowledge. While the terminology places explicit emphasis on the interface and how it is constituted. the immediate concern lies with the implications of the interface for the emergence of cognitive. that the knowledge being galvanized is offline.” within the course of action.” rather than “constituted. That is. In the diagram of the functional model of interaction (figure 3. knowledge is “accessed. while the computer side has remained unchanged. it’s an abstract quantity that exists prior to interactions with the computer. The distinction rests on the manner in which the interface elicits particular varieties of action and thought from the human user. perceptual and actional patterns.4). 73 . and that this aspect reinforces the sense. in user experience.” This knowledge can be considered offline with regard to activity. and while it directly informs the ways in which the human subject perceives and reasons. I drew a distinction between functional and realizational interfaces. I have added a further cognitive dimension to the human side of the computer-as-it-comes model. the added dimension is labelled “Knowledge. In schematizing the respective interactional paradigms of the functional and realizational interfaces. then.In Chapter 2.

and the interface is designed to lead to the accomplishment of this goal while placing minimal cognitive demands on the human. the goal of the taskat-hand is known in advance. I noted in Chapter 2 that functionalism is something of a standard in conventional interaction design. i. The human’s knowledge is leveraged by the abstractions that comprise the computer’s interface. While the approach has a great many advantages for routine activities with computers.HUMAN KNOWLEDGE COMPUTER PERCEPTION S OUTPUT REASONING PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. Through leveraging existing user knowledge. The human-computer interaction loop with the functional interface (see 2. and this knowledge is galvanized to guide perception and reasoning. the task domain and its end goals are made as transparent as possible. 74 .. The functional interface is deterministic.4.e. it is not advantageous to activities that are dynamic or nondeterministic by nature. and thereby minimizing the cognitive load.5). leading to appropriate action.

e. Whereas human knowledge can be considered static in functional interactions.5. it is dynamic in realizational interactions. Because the term “knowledge” implies a fixed state of knowing.” and the links between “Realization” and “Perception.5).” and “Realization” and “Reasoning. i.” are now bidirectional. The realizational interface is nondeterministic. The key difference between the realizational and the functional interface lies in the cognitive demands they place on the human. HUMAN REALIZATION COMPUTER PERCEPTION S OUTPUT REASONING PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. The human-computer interaction loop with the realizational interface (see 2.. it is substituted in the diagram by the more dynamic and fluid “realization.In figure 3. “Knowledge” is relabelled “Realization.” 75 . it brings with it a continuing potential for new encounters and uses. and human knowledge continues to expand over a history of interactions.5.

the model represents a disembodied mode of interaction. Hence the substitution of the more dynamic and fluid term “realization. reasoning and action are collapsed. experienced as flow. Nonetheless. then. a reasoning stage still intervenes between the perceiving and acting stages. In figure 3. offers resistance to the user. By introducing resistance to the interface—a resistance that requires the human to fully engage in the activity—the shift is effected from a static and deterministic model of activity to one that is dynamic and nondeterministic. According to the criteria of embodied activity.6. there is a seamless continuity between perceiving and acting. on the other hand. It’s precisely this corpus of “knowns” on which the functional interface draws. I have defined embodied activity as a state of being that consists in a merging of action and awareness. While realization is offline to the activity.The term “knowledge” implies a static corpus of known facts. an important step has been taken towards the enactive model. it still requires that the human commit continuous and significant cognitive resources to the task. That is to say.5. the boundaries between perception.” In figure 3. and thus opens the possibility for the on-going generation of new meanings and modes of thought. and the continuity between perceiving and acting is indicated by the label “Perceptually Guided Action.” 76 . The realizational interface. deliberately prompting her to new modes of thinking about the task domain.

The perceiving/reasoning/acting sequence has been collapsed into a fully integrated model of activity. labelled here as “Perceptually Guided Action. or in Hubert Dreyfus’ paraphrase. Embodied Interaction.” This corresponds to the flow of embodied activity (see 1. and it can be assumed that the experience of “oneness” involves the loss of any sense of disconnect with the computer. and that this has proven a major stumbling block in arriving at designs for digital musical instruments that allow for embodied modes of interaction. Perception and action constitute a unity. and to Heidegger’s ready-to-hand (see 3. “absorbed coping. The model of activity corresponds to Heidegger’s ready-to-hand.2). This is the first of the schematizations in which the human is represented as a unity.” or. embodied action.HUMAN S PERCEPTUALLY GUIDED ACTION COMPUTER OUTPUT PROGRAMS M INPUT Figure 3.2). there is a merging of action and awareness. I’ve argued that such a mode of activity is precluded by the computer-as-it-comes. As with 77 . and the sense of disconnect between human and computer ceases to factor in experience. in the rubric that I’ve used throughout the essay.6.

7). then.2).the standard model of human-computer interaction (figure 3. I suggested that what distinguishes embodied action from enaction is the realizational dimension.7. Cognitive realization is. there is no explicit focus on conscious mechanisms. the distinguishing aspect of the ready-to-hand is that it is an unconscious.3). That is. unreflective mode of behavior. HUMAN REALIZATION COMPUTER S PERCEPTUALLY GUIDED ACTION OUTPUT PROGRAMS M INPUT Figure 3. such challenges are not prerequisite to embodiment. prerequisite to enaction. Enaction implies an embodied model of interaction with 78 . Enaction. however. “Realization” is connected to “Perceptually Guided Action” through a bidirectional path (figure 3. Indeed. that while the sense of embodiment may be optimal when cognitive challenges are placed upon the human agent. To make the step from embodied action to enaction. In Chapter 2. Human and computer are structurally coupled systems (see 3.

cognition is an embodied phenomenon. and in turn shapes the trajectory of future interactions. the enactive interface solicits time-constrained improvised responses that are embodied and online. In the enactivist view. for the purposes of the present study I assume that inner representations play no part in direct experience.10 That is. It arises through physical interactions. and to the cognitive challenges this resistance presents. as this makes it easier to distinguish between direct and abstract experience. the interface is 10 There are continuing disagreements among cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind as to whether "inner representations" play a part in direct experience. Although I take no position in the debate. But where the realizational interface solicits a mode of activity that is disembodied and offline.a view to cognitive and actional realization. through reciprocal patterns of determination. “representational and non-representational intentionality (Preston 1988). There’s a symmetry between the enactive model and that of the realizational interface (figure 3. deliberately causing a reappraisal of the representations that comprise the interface. an activity that necessarily involves reasoning. If we were to stick with the idea that humans are 79 .5): both include a realizational dimension that is tied. and is therefore disembodied and offline—the enactive interface is concerned with soliciting new responses without recourse to inner representations. And in both instances. to perception and action. in Elizabeth Preston’s terminology.” Where the realizational interface is concerned with engineering a representational breakdown—i. realization is tightly correlated to the resistance that the interface offers to the human user.e. Another way to view this is as the difference between.

then. and human activity is embodied and online. social position. it’s important to note that while the enactive model of interaction represents an idealized “way of being” in the performative moment. in addition to the enactive model of interaction (figure 3." With deictic intentionality. however. would also at various moments involve embodied action storing the contents of their environment as inner representations at all times. Rather. then we could potentially draw the distinction between abstract and direct experience in terms of objective and deictic intentionality. that is. we do not relate to an object in terms of its objectness. In the enactive model. realization is an incremental process of cognitive regularization and awareness...” that performance practice. and at the same time determining the emergent contour of the body’s unfolding patterns and trajectories. According to Philip Agre. The enactive model of interaction represents the ideal performative outcome of the class of digital musical instruments that I am setting out to define and describe in this study. in real time and real space. it does not represent the sum total of the performance practice. in keeping with Merleau-Ponty’s theory of “double embodiment. then. Deictic representations were discussed in Chapter 2.7). And it is because the object is so directly folded into the actional midst that we encounter it directly rather than abstractly. 80 . "a deictic ontology . or current and typical goals or projects (Agre 1997: 242). in relations to an agent's spatial location. but in terms of the role it plays in our activities. can be defined only in indexical and functional terms. but I will reiterate here.encountered directly rather than abstractly. stemming from forces that are directly registered through the body. Before turning to design.

and the human performer would routinely cross the lines that distinguish one modality from the next.6). and becomes readyto-hand. i. and offline realization (figure 3. to borrow terminology from Heidegger—the instrument effectively disappears from use.5). doubly embodied performer.” particularly in the learning stage. We see then a coincidence of the present-at-hand and the ready-to-hand.e. it’s likely that the act of playing proceeds without a great deal of reflective thought. multi-tasking. With the greater portion of available cognitive resources allocated to the instrumental breakdown. a violinist breaks a string in the middle of performance. in the midst of embodied activity. At the same time. That the same human is able to divide the instantaneous allocation of cognitive resources into representational and nonrepresentational subcomponents is nothing extraordinary for a practiced. it cannot be assumed that the instrument will provide endless novelty to the performer. It is also something that happens as a matter of course in the 81 . particularly as. she continues playing on the remaining three strings. There will be “breakdowns. as the intentionality of the performer is divided across different components of the same instrument. which shift awareness to the “objectness” of the instrument. At such moments—again. she becomes more finely adapted to the instrumental dynamics. Each of these modalities would constitute different ways of engaging the same instrument. The instrument will become present-at-hand. In everyday embodied practices. drawing the focus of her attention to the objectness of the instrument. For example. over the course of practice.. it will be encountered through a representational intentionality. however. Additionally. it’s not unusual for these experiential modalities to be engaged simultaneously.(figure 3.

3.development of any form of embodied practice. which I have termed “enactive performance practice (figure 3. 82 .8). the other modalities—embodied action and offline realization—will invariably follow. it can be assumed that if the instrumental implementation engenders suitable conditions for the enactive model of interaction.” then. and therefore need not factor in design. In using the umbrella term “intentionality. In the particular case of what I have termed enactive digital musical instruments. it encompasses both representational and nonrepresentational intentional modes. and offline realization models into a single integrated model. embodied action. then.5 The Discontinuous Unfolding of Skill Acquisition In Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology.” The model encompasses the interdependencies between perception. is that the enactive model is the only one that need be kept in view. then. human intentionality is fundamentally concerned with the body’s manner of relating to objects in the course of purposive activity. The practical implication for instrument design. action and cognitive unfolding within the circumscribed interactional domain of instrumental practice. In the broadest sense of the term. we can condense the enactive.

The human acts purposefully through her body. and cognitive abilities emerge over time through the continuous and embodied circular interactions between them. exemplifying an intentionality. The instrumental reactions are perceived by the human. while R represents the map from the instrument’s reactions back to the human. as they are registered in the body. Her bodily actions are transduced by the instrument and lead to a reaction.8. and of the dynamics of the bodyinstrument interactions. As these cognitive abilities develop. it does serve to encapsulate all the key facets of the interaction paradigm I’ve set out to describe. While the enactive performance practice model is too general to be useful in design. The process could be schematized as a bidirectional exchange. but we get closer to 83 . Enactive performance practice. Human body and instrument are unities.COGNITION R Time HUMAN BODY INSTRUMENT I Figure 3. modulate her intentionality. I represents the map from human intentionality to the instrument. and these perceptions. and thus her ongoing reactions and bodily dispositions. there is an incremental regularization of the performative patterns of the body.

the environment can be taken to comprise the instrument. as it implies a continuity in the acquisition of perceptual. While such features of the environment will inevitably play a part in the emergence and formation of performer intentionality. the model does not accurately reflect the ways in which the modes of bodily relation to an instrument are transformed over the course of cognitive 11 In this essay. The cognitive dimension is not independent of these interactions. 84 . At the same time. actional and cognitive skills.the flux of the performance experience if the interactions are viewed as circular and continuous. of course. As long as enactive performance practice—and also the intentional arc—can be said to encompass representational and nonrepresentational modes. this is solely for the purposes of clarity. In real practice.8. it's beyond the scope of this study to factor them into consideration. etc. and the environment. however.8. other animals.11 Enactive performance practice as I’ve outlined it here is consistent with Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the intentional arc (see Chapter 2). the environment may include any manner of physical spaces. but rather is folded into them through realization. humans. It should be kept in mind that cognition is an embodied phenomenon. cognitive abilities continue to develop. a continuity that is also implied in the unbroken trajectory of cognitive unfolding in figure 3. the sensorimotor surfaces. this doesn’t present a problem. Over time. Although cognition and the body are indicated as distinct entities in figure 3. The “arc” metaphor is interesting. and an idealized physical space in which the instrument's outputs might be optimally perceived by the human performer. realized at the connections between the nervous system. as the body continues to adapt to the dynamics of the interactional domain.

Hubert Dreyfus’ “The Current Relevance of Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Embodiment (Dreyfus 1996).” and illustrates his argument with two examples: learning to drive a car.unfolding.” “Competence. and learning to play chess. Dreyfus assumes “the case of an adult acquiring a skill by instruction (Dreyfus 1996:6). but will illustrate the argument with an 12 The numbering system in citations of Dreyfus' article refer to the paragraph number of the online text. such as learning to play a musical instrument. In the discussion that follows.” “Advanced beginner. i.e. I will borrow from Dreyfus’ decomposition of the intentional arc into five distinct stages.” and David Sudnow’s Ways of the Hand (Sudnow 2001). then.” and “Expertise”—where each stage is characterized by specific bodily ways of relating to the task environment in question. I’ll do this by drawing out some correspondences between two texts. Before moving on to issues of implementation.”12 He does this by dividing the temporal unfolding of skill acquisition into five distinct stages—“Novice. This is an especially important point when considering the acquisition of realizational skills. Dreyfus sets out in his article to “lay out more fully than Merleau-Ponty does. it’s worth considering the ways in which human bodily ways of being are transformed within the process of acquiring a specific skill. it does not account for the intrinsically discontinuous back-andforth between the present-at-hand and the ready-to-hand that characterizes the acquisition of skill. how our relation to the world is transformed as we acquire a skill (Dreyfus 1996:6).” “Proficient. 85 .

time-constrained performance. the features of the task environment were chords. For Sudnow. The beginner is then given rules for determining actions on the basis of these features. and the proper alignments were the voicing of those chords: In early lessons with my new teacher the topic was chord construction. Dreyfus’ “Novice” stage begins with the reduction of the task environment into explicit representations of the elements of which the environment is composed: Normally. the instruction process begins with the instructor decomposing the task environment into context-free features which the beginner can recognize without benefit of experience in the task domain. but without any explicit regard as to how these alignments will eventually fold into the context of embodied. like a computer following a program.e. establishing a “grip”—in the proper place and with the proper alignments. or voicing. playing a chord’s tones in nicely distributed ways. It’s interesting to note the 86 .example that is more immediately pertinent to the present study: learning to improvise with a musical instrument. (Sudnow 2001:12) The proper “place” of the chords was determined by the specific configuration of piano keys that the hand would need to engage. (Dreyfus 1996:7) That the features of the environment are “context-free” implies that the focus of activity is directed towards connecting the body to the instrument—i. Sudnow’s Ways of the Hand—a detailed first person “production account” of the gradual acquisition of skill as a jazz pianist—is in this regard an ideal candidate..

or an instructor points out. the “Advanced beginner” stage is characterized by the emergence of a degree of contextual recognition: As the novice gains experience actually coping with real situations. find the individual notes again. having gained a hold on the chord. The chord. As Sudnow notes. “lots of searching and looking are first required (Sudnow 2001:12). he begins to note. After seeing a sufficient number of examples. arranging the individual fingers a bit to find a way for the hand to feel comfortable. I’d let it go. groping to put each finger into a good spot.“substantial initial awkwardness” that Sudnow describes in the complex of lookings and graspings that characterize this stage: I would find a particular chord. then—the initial “context-free” feature of the environment—is itself decomposed into individual features. the student learns to recognize them. then look back to the keyboard—only to find the visual and manual hold hadn’t yet been well established. Each note of the chord is mentally associated with an individual finger before the hand gains a hold on the chord as a whole.” In Dreyfus’ taxonomy. And this decomposition demands an on-going coordination between an abstract mental image of the task at hand and the accomplishment of the task. as well as to the 87 . Instructional maxims now can refer to these new situational aspects. build it up from the scratch of its broken parts. and. recognized on the basis of experience. I had to take up the chord again in terms of its constitution. getting a good grasp. perspicuous examples of meaningful additional aspects of the situation. (Sudnow 2001:12) The mode of engagement here is clearly that of the present-at-hand.

of the tendency to regard coordinated actions—such as the playing of a chord—not as the combined motions of individual figures. but this recognition is neither situated (in the sense that one place and alignment might lead to a next place and alignment. that such gestalts remain limited to isolated and non-time-pressured events. (Sudnow 2001:13) It’s important to note. however.objectively defined non-situational features recognizable by the novice. but as a single. Dreyfus’ designation for the third stage of skill acquistion—“Competence”—is potentially misleading. integrated motion of the hands: As my hands began to form constellations. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that competence emerges towards the end of the third stage. then.e. It is at the next stage of skill acquisition that such factors enter the equation. (Dreyfus 1996:10) The “situational aspects” here point to an initial emergence of gestalts. where the stage as a whole is characterized by a gradually increasing capacity for dealing with the 88 . the scope of my looking correspondingly grasped the chord as a whole. remains offline. or that it might be solicited by some other pressing constraint in the environment. or both) nor timely (in the sense that the transition from one place and alignment to a next must satisfy timing constraints in the broader context of a performance). The perceptual recognition of places and alignments is beginning to occur at a higher level of scale. seeing not its note-for-noteness but its configuration against the broader visual field of the terrain. The context that the performer is beginning to glimpse. i.

This frustration is borne specifically of the body’s inability to adequately respond to the seemingly overwhelming online demands of performance: With more experience. there obtained the most alienative relations. by anything but a sense of performative competence.e. there were friends I’d invited to join me. At this point. for situated and timely musical utterances. and the student might wonder how anybody ever masters the skill. It was going on all around me. the disparity between the level of skill accomplished thus far and a newly gained understanding of the larger context of performance—i. I was in the midst of a music the way a lost newcomer finds himself suddenly in the midst of a Mexico City traffic circle. Rather.online aspects of performance. since a sense of what is important in any particular situation is missing. its online aspects—leads to a sense of frustration. the number of potentially relevant elements of a real-world situation that the learner is able to recognize becomes overwhelming. situated in the midst of these surrounding affairs. the melodic movements of the right. (Dreyfus 1996:13) Interestingly enough.. for I was up there trying to do this jazz I’d practiced nearly all day. Sudnow’s first public performance took place at precisely this stage in his development.e. performance becomes nerve-wracking and exhausting. I was on a bucking bronco of my own body’s doings. and the musicians I’d begun to know. (Sudnow 2001:33) 89 . Between the chordchanging beat of my left hand at more or less regular intervals according to the chart. It’s worth quoting his account in full: The music wasn’t mine. i. and the rather more smoothly managed and securely pulsing background of the bass player and drummer. with no humor in the situation. however. The beginning of the third stage is marked.

Dreyfus notes that the performer normally responds to the newly discovered enormity of the task at hand by adopting a “hierarchical perspective.” In short.” It also led to Sudnow shying away from further public performances for a period of several years. There are. in fact.” and by deciding upon a route that “determines which elements of the situation are to be treated as important and which ones can be ignored (Dreyfus 1996:14). The problem is that there are a vast number of different situations that the learner may encounter. (Dreyfus 1996:15) For Sudnow. many differing from each other in subtle. Competent performers. But these rules are not as easily come by as the rules given beginners in texts and lectures. the components of the “Competence” stage are rather more contextbound: The competent performer thus seeks new rules and reasoning procedures to decide upon a plan or perspective. more situations than can be named or precisely defined so no one can prepare for the learner a list of what to do in each possible situation. the plan was to work towards a “melodic intentionality” by extending in practice his acquired embodied knowledge of isolated chords to patterned sequences of chords. the task is again reduced to individual components.The gap between motor intentionality and motor ability led to a music that “was literally out of hand (Sudnow 2001:35). therefore. as well as sequences comprised of the individual 90 . But unlike the concrete components of activity that constitute the “context-free” features of the “Novice” stage. nuanced. have to decide for themselves what plan to choose without being sure that it will be appropriate in the particular situation. ways.

It’s precisley in this emerging capacity to form fully articulated phrases that the performer achieves a degree of competence. this was a largely conceptual process. Motivated so predominantly toward the rapid course. now again.” doing hosts of calculating and guidance operations of this sort in the course of play. (Sudnow 2001:43) And in due course. I found myself for the first time coming into position to begin to do such melodic work with respect to these courses. and for some time. I had left dormant whatever skills for melodic construction I may have had.. an express aiming for sounds. this plan was decided upon without input from his teacher. then a next followed. gestalts began to emerge at the level of the sequence. Not coincidentally. (Sudnow 2001:43) The emergence of these gestalts is more or less equivalent to what Sudnow describes as “the emergence of a melodic intentionality”: .notes that those chords contain. or guidance from “texts and lectures”: At first. Though not yet a native speaker of 91 . frustrated in my attempts to reproduce recorded passages. I’d think: “major triad on the second note of the scale. The simplest sorts of melody-making entailed a note-to-note intentionality that had been extraordinarily deemphasized by virtue of the isolated ways in which I’d been learning. rather than appearing solely at the level of the event: A small sequence of notes was played.. was dependent in my experience upon the acquisition of facilities that made it possible.” then “diminished on the third and a repeat for the next. and it wasn’t as though in my prior work I had been trying and failing to make coherent note-to-note melodies. As the abilities of my hand developed.

responses are either strengthened or inhibited. it is embodied by the experiencing subject. by a calculative procedure. Proficiency seems to develop if. and only if. i.. the performer’s theory of the skill. there is nonetheless a fledgling facility for forming coherent sentences. And it’s precisely in the ready-to-hand that “experience is assimilated”. and that. as represented by rules and principles will gradually be replaced by situational discriminations accompanied by associated responses. Should this happen. (Dreyfus 1996:20) These “situational discriminations” of “intuitive behavior” point explicitly to the mode of “absorbed coping” that is definitive of the ready-to-hand.the language. there is also an increase in the ratio of ready-to-hand to present-at-hand modes of engagement: As the brain of the performer acquires the ability to discriminate between a variety of situations entered into with concern and involvement. With an increase in embodied skill. plans are intuitively evoked and certain aspects stand out as important without the learner standing back and choosing those plans or deciding to adopt that perspective. then. experience is assimilated in this atheoretical way and intuitive behavior replaces reasoned responses. Action becomes easier and less stressful as the learner simply sees what needs to be achieved rather than deciding. Dreyfus’ chracterization of the “Proficient” stage is particularly interesting in terms of the Heideggerean opposition between the present-at-hand and the ready-to-hand: Suppose that events are experienced with involvement as the learner practices his skill. which of several 92 .e. as the result of both positive and negative experiences.

still comprised of a generous quota of moments characterized by a mode of “detached evaluation”. as. the very first attempt to sustain an easeful management undercuts it. you try to keep it up. than it would be undermined. There is less doubt that what one is trying to accomplish is appropriate when the goal is simply obvious rather than the winner of a complex competition. i. the catalyst that effects the shift from a ready-to-hand to a present-at-hand mode of perceiving the task environment. Or. the occurrence of breakdowns is directly related to the number and type of skills the performer has not managed to assimilate: 93 . In fact. (Dreyfus 1996:21) The “Proficient” stage is. (Sudnow 2001:76) What we see is the paradigmatic Heideggerean “breakdown”. the bicycle seemed to do the riding by itself. Yet there’s no question but that the hang of it was glimpsed. since doubt comes only with detached evaluation of performance. the present-athand.e. keep failing. like a revelation. more specifically. at the moment of involved intuitive response there can be no doubt. when one first gets the knack of a complex skill like riding a bicycle or skiing.. however. And it’s interesting to note the way in which this can directly conflict with “intuitive behavior”: No sooner did I try to latch onto a piece of good-sounding jazz that would seem just to come out in the midst of my improvisations.possible alternatives should be selected. the bicycle seems to go off on its own. and essence of the experience was tasted with a “this is it” feeling. The occurrence of such breakdowns is directly related to the number and type of skills the performer has managed to assimilate in the course of interactions with the environment up to the moment in question. then several revolutions of the pedals occur. and it disintegrates. You struggle to stay balanced.

and with the embodiment of ever more refined responses to the dynamical contingencies of the environment. the proficient performer. But at the same time. A continuity that—in the case of proficiency—is rendered discontinuous by the intrusion of breakdowns. a discussion or argument. he falls back on detached.The proficient performer simply has not yet had enough experience with the wide variety of possible responses to each of the situations he or she can now discriminate to have rendered the best response automatic. themes starting to achieve some cogent management. 94 . With this falling into place. however. the solicitation of self-conscious thought. courses of action were being sustained that faded and disintegrated into stammerings and stutterings. perhaps. connectives yet to become integrally part of the process. (Sudnow 2001:56) It’s these “connectives”—“a way of making the best of things continuously (Sudnow 2001:59)”—that gradually fall into place over the course of sustained practice.e. is the continuity of the discourse. To decide. sayings now being attempted. the occurrence of breakdowns—i. from the level of the individual phrase or sentence to the level of. For this reason. (Dreyfus 1996:22) What distinguishes the “Proficient” stage from the “Competent” stage is a shift to a yet higher level of articulational scale. and the catalyst of “stammerings and stutterings”—becomes increasingly seldom. That is. rule-based determination of actions. Sudnow also uses a linguistic analogy: From a virtual hodgepodge of phonemes and approximate paralinguistics. What distinguishes the “Proficient” stage from the “Expertise” stage. a sentence structure was slowly taking form. seeing the goal and the important features of the situation. must still decide what to do.

based on mature and practiced situational discrimination. But Dreyfus also points to a greater refinement to these responses than there is to the variety of responses that are typical during the “Proficient” stage: The expert not only knows what needs to be achieved. each of which share the same decision. This allows the immediate intuitive response to each situation which is characteristic of expertise. have enabled the expert performer to respond to the same conditions from which those breakdowns emerged in a timely and unselfconscious manner. (Dreyfus 1996:25) The lessons learned from breakdowns during the “Proficient” stage. he suggests that discriminating ability and a continuity of response are necessarily linked criteria of expertise: With enough experience with a variety of situations. or tactic. with further discrimination among situations all seen as similar with respect to plan or perspective distinguishing those situations requiring one action from those demanding another. Actions are perceptually guided. single action. the perfomer is immersed in the activity. A more subtle and refined discrimination ability is what distinguishes the expert from the proficient performer. the proficient performer gradually decomposes this class of situations into subclasses. and the “I think” is supplanted by an “I can”: 95 . but also knows how to achieve the goal. (Dreyfus 1996:25) More specifically. then. all seen from the same perspective but requiring different tactical decisions.I’ve already suggested that a capacity for continuous intuitive interactional response to environmental dynamics is definitive of what Dreyfus describes as the “Expertise” stage.

96 . could recognize that I’d done a saying in that language. the temporal dimension is segmented into discrete blocks corresponding to Dreyfus’ five stages of skill acquisition.I’d see a stretch of melody suddenly appear.8. accentings—a saying said just so. pacings. it may be worth revising the diagram of figure 3. there also emerges a parallel refinement of articulational fluency: I could hear it. the performer embodies perceptual. intensities. actional and cognitive capacities that. In figure 3. in suitable performance circumstances. in fact for the very first time. I could hear a bit of that language being well spoken. durations.9. unlike others I’d seen. a saying particularly said in all of its detail: its pitches. seemingly because of something I was doing. in which cognitive unfolding is indicated as continuous over time. enable the experience of flow. though my fingers went to places to which I didn’t feel I’d specifically taken them. in a little strip of play that’d go by before I got a good look at it. (Sudnow 2001:76) With the refinement of dispositional abilities. (Sudnow 2001:78) At this point in the discontinuous unfolding of skill acquisition. In light of the apparent discontinuities of skill acquisition. Certain right notes played in certain right ways appeared just to get done.

A more accurate model yet might indicate the changing nature of human body/instrument relations over each of the five stages of skill acquisition. It is also indicative of the developing capacity for coordination between all three. motor and perceptual skills. motor and perceptual skills. Novice 2. 97 . Proficient 5. A detailed view of enactive performance practice. Advanced beginner 3. “Skill” is indicative of cognitive. “Skill” replaces “Cognition” in this diagram. Competence 4. as well as the capacity for coordination among the three components in both reflective and unreflective behavior.9. encompassing the discontinuous unfolding of skill acquisition. but as it stands. Expertise SKILL R Time HUMAN BODY INSTRUMENT I Figure 3. I represents the map from human intentionality to the instrument. while R represents the map from the instrument’s reactions back to the human. where “skill” can be said to encompass cognitive.1. the diagram of the continuous and circular human/instrument interaction loop is sufficiently general to be applicable at each of the stages.

Sudnow’s account in Ways of the Hand is representative of what I have termed an enactive performance practice. But there is nothing particularly extraordinary about the way in which his skills were acquired. Given an able body (and therefore an innate capacity for perception, action and cognition), an intentionality (e.g. to become an improvising jazz pianist, to produce coherent sequences of notes, etc.), and a sufficiently responsive instrument (e.g. a piano), any human subject might follow an analagous course. In Sudnow’s case, these three prerequisites to enactive performance practice came for free. But my argument has been that in the case of performance with digital musical instruments, something fundamental is missing; i.e. a sufficiently responsive instrument. A sufficient responsiveness is synonymous with what I have referred to as resistance. And it’s precisely the kind of resistance that an instrument affords to the intentioned, embodied agent that will determine whether or not that instrument has the kind of immanent potential that would lead to an enactive performance practice. Kinds of instrumental resistance, then, will be a major focus when the discussion turns to issues of implementation in Chapter 4.

3.6

Conclusion

I began this chapter with a discussion of the inevitable paradox in any description of direct experience. The model of enactive performance practice—an attempt at such a description—brings the discussion squarely back to this fundamental, instinctive, and largely unreflective way in which humans, through the agency of

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their bodies, relate to the world. This raises the question: if unreflective behavior is so fundamental to human experience, why go to the trouble of detailing so many of its particularities? Why not let that which will happen as a matter of course, happen as a matter of course? Both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty viewed their work as opposed to the mechanistic underpinnings of canonical Western philosophy. In their respective analyses of mundane, everyday, unreflective activity, there is an agenda to replace the Cartesian model of subjectivity with that of the embodied agent at large in the world. I suggested, earlier in the chapter, that a reversal of the Cartesian axiom constitutes the first concern of the phenomenological project. The mechanistic and the phenomenological discourses, then, are fundamentally at odds. And to the extent that technical discourse continues to hinge on the discourse of mechanistic philosophy, it also continues to be resistant to phenomenology. My concern, then, has been with outlining a model of human experience and activity that serves as an alternative to the model routinely adopted by technical designers, i.e. that of the perpetually disembodied Cartesian subject. If it is in fact possible to design and build digital musical instruments that allow for enactive processes to be realized, then we will have done nothing other than arrive right back at the most fundamental form of human agency.

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4

Implementation

4.1

Kinds of Resistance

There are two key assumptions that underlie the enactive model of interaction: 1. that human activity and behavior has rich, structured dynamics, and 2. that the kinds of resistance that objects offer to humans in the course of activity are key to the on-going dynamical structuring of interactional patterns. In the previous chapter, I was concerned with describing the interactional patterns of an enactive performance practice with a view to the implications of those patterns for cognition. Focus was directed at the dynamics of human activity and behavior. In this chapter, focus is directed at the kinds of resistance that a candidate digital musical instrument might offer to a human performer in the midst of performative activity. The underlying concern, then, shifts from theory to implementation. I have suggested previously in the essay that conventional acoustic instruments, because of the resistance they offer to the performer, serve as useful examples of technical objects that embody the potential for enaction. But in the huge diversity of mechanisms that we see across the range of acoustic
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instruments, there is a proportionate diversity in kinds of resistance. The physical feedback to the performer that arises in the encounter between bow and string, for example, is of a different kind to that which comes of the projection of breath into a length of tubing. We can assume, then, that in much the same way that the contingencies of human embodiment play a determining role in the dynamical emergence of performative patterns, so too do the contingencies of instrumental embodiment. This makes the task of arriving at a universal template for the design of enactive musical instruments a profoundly complex, if not obviously impractical undertaking. In the various models of interaction that I schematized in the previous chapter, the maps from human motor function to computer input devices, and from computer output devices to human sensory input, are non-specific in terms of the particular sensorimotor mechanisms that are activated in the course of interaction—the models are intended to be as general and universal as possible. But as soon as we move from interaction diagrams to real world implementations, a higher degree of specificity is required. If, for example, a candidate model for an enactive digital musical instrument were to remain general, there would need to be an account of the myriad ways in which human energy might be transduced as signals at the computer inputs. In the context of the present study, rather than attempting to compile a comprehensive catalogue of implementational possibilities, I will focus on one particular real world implementation: a digital musical instrument that also happens to represent my first serious attempt at engaging the essay’s key theoretical issues in the form of an actual device. This device, as with any musical instrument, offers unique kinds
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The final component of the study sets out. when the core concern is how the candidate instrument is resistant to the human performer.e. and I will stick with that model here. I hope also to demonstrate the utility of keeping the two layers separate in the design process. with a view to the various ways in which its indigenous and particular kinds of resistance may or may not lend themselves to the development of an enactive performance practice. So. It would seem likely. then. which 102 . after all. direct a significant amount of attention to issues of software. programs and output devices. that the greater portion of attention would be directed towards input and output devices. Standard human-computer interaction models partition the computer into three distinct layers: input devices. to detail the instrument’s implementational specifics. digital instruments constitute a special class of musical devices: their sonic behavior is not immanent in their material embodiment. that the performer actually physically engages the instrument.of resistance to the performer. It is at the level of hardware.. therefore. but rather. In the pages that follow. i. But as I pointed out in Chapter 1. must be programmed. This is the model I employed in the interaction diagrams of Chapter 3. While I shall be discussing just one specific implementation. hardware. In persisting with the standard division between hardware and software. This is particularly true of software components. the potential for reusing those components is increased. I nonetheless hope to make it apparent that in maintaining a loose coupling between hardware and software components. while hardware certainly constitutes more than a passing concern. I will. the dynamical behavior and resistance of the instrument is to a large degree encapsulated in its programs.

any one particular software framework brings with it a certain modest degree of generality.1).1 In that case.may at any time in the future need to be integrated into different implementational contexts. And to the extent that the framework continues to evolve across distinct implementations. Feely represents my first attempt at the implementation of an enactive digital musical instrument (figure 4. we may also see the beginnings of—if not a universal approach to the design of enactive digital instruments—one that is at least suitably general and robust. 103 . 1 For an interesting counter example to this approach. 4.2 Mr. see Cook (2004). Feely: Hardware Overview A device that goes under the name of Mr. where hardware and software may in a certain variety of cases be inextricable. such as a new hardware framework.

Feely.Figure 4. Mr. 104 .1.

“Encompassing” is used here in its most literal sense: all of the components of which the instrument is comprised—the input devices. MIDI A/D and D/A boards. the output devices. Eight channel audio A/D and D/A hardware. the bow is a distinct physical entity from the body of the violin—but “total integration” is not really the point of an integrated approach.6 kernel. running the Linux 2.Mr. One of the design goals was to create a silent instrument with no moving parts inside the enclosure. Feely’s computational nucleus resides on a miniature x86 compatible motherboard.. Rather. and a specific motherboard/chipset combination was chosen because of its capacity for fanless operation. emphasis is placed on the coherence of the instrument. Integration and Instrumentality Sukandar Kartadinata has used the term “integrated electronic instruments” to denote a class of devices characterized by an encompassing approach to their material realization (Kartadinata 2003). and the internal circuitry—are encompassed within a single physical entity. This is in sharp contrast to the sprawl of individual devices and cables that characterizes “the often lab-like stage setups built around general purpose computers (Kartadinata 2003:180). and power conversion modules are located in the same enclosure as the motherboard.” 105 . Kartadinata notes that total integration is not ubiquitous among conventional acoustic instruments—e.g. the operating system resides on flash memory. with patches applied for low latency audio throughput and for granting scheduling priority to real-time audio threads. how the material embodiment affords a performative encounter with a unity. that is. For that reason.

and 2. Feely in the playing position. that the instrument in its material embodiment should be indicative of a specific purpose. 106 . that the instrument should have the feel of a musical instrument. off-theshelf computer (with or without an attendant array of peripheral input devices). From the outset.2 shows Mr. but designed to rest in the lap of the performer. but it seemed to me a useful way of distinguishing the project from those in which the instrument comprises a general purpose. This is suggestive of two different interpretations. it is secured on a stand. It may appear redundant to suggest that an instrument should be instrumental. Feely.Integration and coherence of the instrumental embodiment were important factors in the design of Mr. both of which figured in my approach to design. I had in mind that it was of critical importance that the instrument should have an instrumentality. Figure 4. Because of the instrument’s weight. and both of which factor in the perceived coherence of the instrument to the performer: 1.

and it is angled (with respect to the performer) in 107 . This aspect of the design is tied in—in the most literal sense—with the aim that the instrument should feel like a musical instrument. Mr.2. But there is another aspect to this “being there. The sense of the instrument’s physically “being there” is. Feely in the playing position. then. The playing position ensures that there is constant physical contact between performer and instrument.Figure 4.” and this is tied in with the way in which the instrument is indicative of its use. as weight is transferred from the upper body to the thighs. The control surface is situated at the performer’s centre of gravity. proportional to the amplitude of the human’s motor energy output. In the act of playing. the contact with the instrumental body is intensified by hand actions at the control surface.

Feely’s control surface: knobs. The control surface is partitioned into distinct regions (figure 4. then. Control Surface Unlike the computer-as-it-comes—a general purpose device—Mr. is equivalent to the “considerable difference between using the real world as a metaphor for interaction and using it as a medium for interaction (Dourish 2001:101). and that it therefore need not accommodate the multiple representational paradigms required of a multiplicity of possible usages.3). and occupies the focal ground in the field of vision. and the cross-coupling of these perceptions with the tactile and visual engagement of the instrument and its input devices.” Three classes of input device are used on Mr.” I avoided any graphical representations of the sound or its generating mechanisms at the interface. Feely is a special purpose device. It’s not just that the instrument is “there. This means that the instrument is intended to be nothing but a musical instrument. Feely’s interface is different to that of the computer-as-it-comes. buttons and joysticks. which are distinguished by the points in the audio synthesis system 108 .such a way that it presents itself optimally to the hands. for physically engaging the controls. An important aspect. then. is that the interface is devoid of representational abstractions. makes itself more than readily apparent. In keeping with Rodney Brooks’ dictum that “the world is its own best model (Brooks 1991).” but—to paraphrase Michael Hamman—that it is “so very there” that the opportunity for action. giving preference to the performer’s perceptions of the sound itself. of the instrument’s instrumentality. The way in which Mr.

Feely: Control surface partitioning scheme.3. the functional layout of the panel is a hardware concern. Display & Patch Control Joysticks Variants Mute Buttons Global Power Volume On/Off Channel Section Global Section Figure 4. worth noting the control surface’s basic partitioning scheme in this section. Although this unavoidably touches on software issues. 109 .3. It is. Mr. however.to which they are linked. I will detail the specific functional behaviors and mapping strategies used to connect the input devices to the audio system in 4.

four would ordinarily be utilized only between periods of performative activity: those labelled “Display & Patch Control. the functions of the other three sections are self-explanatory.” “Global Volume.” and “Variants” in figure 4.3. Signals from each of the five discrete synthesis channels are passed as inputs to this processing network. When one of these buttons is toggled on. The Channel Section is partitioned into five discrete channels of three knobs and one button each. These joysticks are considered freely assignable to any and multiple input points in the discrete synthesis channels or the global processing network. and three knobs combined with three buttons. The Global Section is divided into two subsections. one of which springs back to its centre position when not in use. These buttons are used to switch between pre-stored variants in the synthesis network. The Variants Section is comprised of six backlit buttons. The Display and Patch Control section is described under Visual Display below.3—indicate the areas in which activity is focused during performance.” and “Power On/Off” in figure 4.Of the eight distinct regions that comprise the control surface.” “Global Section. These controllers are mapped to a global audio processing network. 110 . or by synthesis network topologies. by mapping functions. there are respectively mapped to five discrete audio synthesis networks in the software system.” “Mute Buttons. which respectively comprise nine knobs. The Joystick Section is comprised of two x-y joysticks. and in certain cases to points in the five discrete channels.” “Joysticks. all other buttons will be in their off state. The four remaining control surface regions—labelled “Channel Section. These variants may differ by synthesis parameter settings.

The emphasis is placed on motor memory as opposed to the conscious storing of data. The layout of the control panel is designed to facilitate this learning process. This is not. as a whole. sufficiently 111 . but rather learns through performing. the user quickly adapts to the relationship between a cluster of controls and clusterings of associated behavioral patterns at the instrument’s output.With all these individual input devices and multiple mapping systems. reinforces the relationship between specific functional regions and specific functional behaviors to both the visual and tactile senses. This means that motor patterns do not need to be relearned from scratch from one patch to the next. in itself. in fact they should be optimally adaptable. The performer. The control surface is still. by partitioning the control surface into functional regions. then. by employing a static functional structure across different patches—that is. however. is not required to store a catalogue of controller functions and mappings in conscious memory. properly or sufficiently indicative of its use. Firstly. how things work in practice. across varying implementations of the underlying audio synthesis networks—the patterning of the instrument’s behavior remains relatively constant. then. it would seem that the performer has rather a lot to remember during performance. and the underlying software system is designed in such a way that motor memory should be transferable and adaptable across varying audio subsystem implementations. across even radically divergent implementations of the sound generating subsystem. The physical layout of the control surface. Secondly. then the instrument is not. from a base set of functional correspondences. And if the performer is required to store such data in conscious memory.

but with a view to rendering the interface as free of abstraction as possible.g. Visual Display In chapter 2. Unlike conventional acoustic instruments. The display is not intended to be used during performance.). therefore. and to monitor data in the case of “breakdowns” (e. make any demands on the performer’s attention. memory errors. to integrate a character display with the control surface. it may be directed to the guidance of motor activities. electronic 112 . or so great that. and to the extent that vision is required for the performance task. even after a significant amount of practice. This is something that I tried to avoid in the design of Mr. except as a notification mechanism in the case of such a breakdown. It does not. It was my aim that the degree of resistance should be neither so minimal that the interface would become quickly transparent to motor memory and activity.complex and multifaceted as to offer resistance to learning. not only with a view to minimizing the cognitive demands of visual attention. which is used to navigate a patch bank between performances. It proved useful. however. etc. Feely. Audio Display An important aspect of the “feel” of many conventional acoustic instruments is the haptic feedback to the performer from the instrument’s vibrating body as it radiates sonic energy. it would remain beyond grasp. I discussed the cost to the nonvisual senses of the visuocentric approach to interaction as typified by the computer-as-it-comes. program exceptions. CPU overload.

is the instrument’s body—is as close as is practical to the body of the instrument. This speaker placement has one other advantage: the location of the point source of the sound—which. because of its size and weight. that the loudspeaker should have a wide radiation pattern. in the case of the great majority of acoustic instruments. electronic instruments are lacking in the haptic vibrational feedback that is characteristic of their acoustic counterparts. the torso. it’s possible to go a certain way towards the “feel” of a conventional instrument. could not practically be integrated with the body of the instrument. through a P. Except in the case that the amplifier/loudspeaker system is built into the instrumental body.g. its frequency and loudness. The effect varies with the character of the sound. The perceptual localisation of the origin of the sound is an important indicator of the 113 . This issue was taken into consideration in the design of Mr. and the type and number of reflective and absorbtive material in proximity to the loudspeaker. This limited the options among available technologies. and resulted in the choice of a combined amplifier/loudspeaker system that. in deciding upon an amplifier/loudspeaker system. the type of floor surface. by careful positioning of the amplifier/loudspeaker in performance.instruments require the use of amplifiers and loudspeakers in order to propagate sound in space. it was outweighed by other constraints: 1. that the amplifier be powerful enough for the instrument to be used without further amplification (e. but unfortunately. as close as is practical to the body of the instrument. to a lesser extent.A. Nonetheless. and 2. the radiation of vibrational energy can be felt through the feet and. Feely. system). By placing the amplifier/loudspeaker on the floor.

At the same time. fellow performers. Firstly. singular (as opposed to distributed). and sequential (as opposed to parallel) mode of interaction that is idiosyncratic to the computer-as-it-comes. These factors contribute to the potential for an encounter with the instrument that is engaging (one of the five criteria of embodied activity from Chapter 1). it may be useful to recap on the key aspects of the hardware implementation. Feely avoids the interface model of the computer-as-it-comes. This means that the performer engages an instrument that has a functional coherence to its material embodiment as well as a tangible physical presence in performance. both for the performer. Whereas the computer-as-it-comes would situate the user’s attention in a world of metaphorical abstraction and would provide no guarantee of 114 . This stands in contrast to the visuocentric. and encompasses multiple distributed points of interaction. Feely offers resistance to the performer without having paid due attention to software. Secondly. it also avoids the associated costs of that model for interaction. that the hardware interface to Mr. Summary It would be premature to evaluate the ways in which Mr. and to point to some implications for embodiment. motocentric rather than visuocentric. and for the emergence of an enactive performance practice.instrument’s phenomenal presence. The interface is. representation-hungry. Nonetheless. and the audience. then. the instrumental interface affords distributed motor activities without the burden of representational abstractions. the instrument is integrated and instrumental. then.

Feely situates the user’s attention directly within the activity. vision). specifically. When the focus is shifted from the instantaneous aspects of embodied activity to embodiment as an emergent phenomenon. 115 . As a piece of hardware. Such issues are tied in with the instrument’s behavior. and timely.. with the resistance that it offers to the performer. that embodied activity be situated.4). hearing. i.. to the emergence of an enactive performance practice—the instrument will be required to offer resistance to the performer through the medium of sound. These factors again correspond to certain of the five criteria of embodiment. and the unique dynamical patterning of thought and activity that comes of that resistance.e. Mr. and—because of the distributed and multiply parallel nature of the performative mode—offers a reasonable chance that the real-time constraints of musical performance might be met.e. Mr. This brings the discussion around to the implementation of the instrument’s sonic behavior in software. we touch on issues of adaptation and cognition. encourages the parallel distribution of the activity across distinct sensorimotor modalities (touch and proprioception. But to get from interaction to realization—i. Feely affords embodied modes of interaction.meeting timing constraints (see 2. multimodal.

As the main focus of my work has been directed at the creation of a system that would allow for dynamical behaviors. it is object-oriented. SuperCollider Server Architecture The SuperCollider audio synthesis engine passes signals between nodes on a server.3 Mr. primitives. 2. The implementational possibilities of these extensions to the language will comprise the main focus of this and the next section. it is mature and offers a rich set of built-in features. where those nodes represent instances of user-defined synthesis and processing functions. much of the task of programming has involved the incremental development of a framework—an integrated library of extensions to the language—that augments the base audio synthesis architecture with modules that allow for complex dynamical mappings between system entities. it is easily extensible with user-defined modules.com.audiosynth. it will be useful to describe the base architecture on which the framework is built.2 The language was chosen for three main reasons: 1. and plug-ins. 2 http://www. First. 116 .4.4). and 3. Feely: Software Overview Mr. however. Feely’s software system is written in the SuperCollider programming language. A sample signal flow diagram would look familiar to anybody who has worked with modular synthesis systems (figure 4.

5. sending a message.4.NODES SIGNALS SOUND Figure 4.5). phase and amplitude parameters. The values of a parameter slot may be set by sending messages to the node to which the slot belongs. A node on the synthesis server may contain parameter slots. a node that represents an oscillator function may contain slots for frequency. Writing values to a node’s parameter slots by 1. or by mapping the parameter slot to the output of a bus (figure 4. SuperCollider synthesis server: Signal flow. 117 . SLOTS MESSAGE BUS Figure 4. and 2. For example. mapping the slot to the output of a bus.

Signal routing between parallel synthesis networks using busses. BUS 1 1 2 BUS 2 Figure 4. SuperCollider’s bussing architecture allows for the flexible routing of signals within the synthesis network. to tap an output signal from any node in the synthesis network and route it to a bus. or mapped to a parameter slot belonging to any other node (figure 4. It’s possible.6.6). from which the signal could be rerouted as an audio signal input to any other node. for example. Bus 1 taps an output signal from a node in the first channel and routes it to the audio input of a node in the second channel. Bus 2 taps an output signal from a node in the second channel and maps it to a parameter slot of a node in the first channel. This flexibility is exploited and extended in the 118 .A bus is a virtual placeholder for a signal.

The behavior of the instrument as a whole is in large part determined by these functions and their various mappings and routings within the audio synthesis network. A functional mapping can be taken to mean the transfer function from the output of one component to the input of another.extensions to the language that form the basis of Mr. and for defining functional mappings between them. Feely’s mapping framework. As I noted in the previous section. Feely is primarily concerned with providing a flexible and intuitive mechanism for routing signals between components of the audio synthesis network.7). This is an example of a “one-to-many (Wanderley 2001)” mapping model. The mapping framework consists of a hierarchical library of such functions encapsulated within discrete software objects. The objects that perform these transformations comprise the mapping layer. 119 . and rerouted from that bus to any other point in the network. In Mr. Feely’s mapping framework. the functional transformation of the signal takes place between the bus and the signal’s destination. any signal within the audio synthesis network may be routed to a bus. a function that is applied to the signal such that the signal’s characteristics are transformed between output at the source component and input at the receiver component. Mapping Framework The mapping framework that I have developed for Mr. The mapping layer allows for the flexibility to route the signal at a single bus to multiple destinations with multiple functional mappings (figure 4. That is.

effecting a one-to-many mapping.8. These signals are routed to three different parameter slots. The software objects that perform these transformations comprise the mapping layer. or 120 .Mapping Layer x BUS y z Figure 4. BUS 1 x BUS 2 y Figure 4. The signals at two busses are subject to functional transformations (x and y). The mapping framework also allows for the “cross-coupling (Hunt. y and z) between the bus and their respective parameter slot destinations.7 The signal at a bus is split into three signals. Wanderley.8). Each signal is subject to a functional transformation (those transformations denoted here as x. or “many-to-one (Wanderley 2001)” mappings (figure 4. The transformed signals are summed. and Paradis 2003)” of bus signals.

9. the signal at BUS 2 is multiplied by the scaled signal at BUS 1. The signals at two busses are subject to functional transformations (x and y). For example. the mapping framework allows for what I have termed “functionparameter” mappings. Additionally. The output of the dependent function y is then mapped to a parameter slot in an audio synthesis network component. function x in figure 4. Function y might multiply the output value of the signal at BUS 2 by the value of an argument.9 might scale the output of the signal at BUS 1 into the range [1. The output of function x is mapped into a parameter slot in function y. This is a 121 . When the output of x is mapped into the parameter slot that corresponds to the multiplicand argument of y. where the output of one functional mapping may be mapped into a parameter slot in another (figure 4.9). BUS 1 x BUS 2 y Figure 4. The output of function y is mapped to a parameter slot in an audio synthesis network component.” resulting in a mapping from multiple signal sources to a single parameter slot.10].“cross-coupled. where that argument is set at a parameter slot.

and can be routed to any point in the synthesis network. x ADC BUS y z Figure 4. While all busses in the audio synthesis system are instances of a single class of bus. however. are accorded either local or global scope. The signal at the bus may be treated as though it were any other signal. The map from hardware to software. but it makes clear the kinds of complex interdependencies between system components that “function-parameter” mappings allow. and therefore have identical implementations. Analog signals are read by an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and written to a bus in the audio synthesis network. depending on the particular input device to which they are connected.10). In this scheme.10. Feely’s hardware controls are connected to the audio synthesis network through busses (figure 4. Feely’s hardware controls. Feely’s control surface into functional regions. Mr.simple example. Busses that are placeholders for signal arriving from Mr. 122 . the scope of a bus corresponds to the function of the input device as defined by the partitioning of Mr. All busses that are placeholders for signals routed from audio signals have global scope. they are nonetheless classified as having either local or global scope.

are connected to busses that have local scope within each of the five discrete audio synthesis network channels.2 L1.3 2 L2.11.e.3 GLOBAL G1 G2 Figure 4. they may only be routed to the corresponding audio synthesis network channels.1 L2.1 L1.1-3 and L2. The output of these audio synthesis channels is summed and sent to a global processing network. 1 L1. 123 . i. 1 and 2.. Their scope is local. Local and global scope of busses.1-3 are connected to Channel Section controllers on Mr. Busses L1. Feely’s control panel. while Global Section controllers are connected to busses that have global scope (figure 4.Channel Section controllers. for example.2 L2.11).

where the outputs from 124 . and therefore represent the points at which human action and internal mechanism coincide. The scope of these busses is global.Global busses G1 and G2 are connected to Global Section controllers on Mr. signals are treated as equivalent whether their origins are external or internal to the system.e. They are placeholders for signals that originate both outside and inside the audio synthesis network. appear to be relatively flat. To this point. Busses have a special status in the mapping framework. It was a deliberate design choice to accord busses this dual role.. i. That is to say. The only difference. The dynamical behavior of the system as a whole would. between the mapping scheme of figure 4. however. Feely’s control panel. The “push-and-pull” of dynamical forces that is key to the instrument’s resistance. or to any of the discrete audio synthesis channels. for example. the simple mapping schemes I have illustrated have not demonstrated models of dynamical behavior. they may be routed to the global processing network. as a transparency to the source of signals within the system effectively blurs the implementational boundary between human and instrumental behaviors. Consider a system.11 and that of a linear summing mixer is that the bussing architecture in the figure shows the possibility of a flexible routing of controls signals to individual parameter slots in the various mixer channels. then. nonetheless. and this equivalency of signals implies that all signal flow networks are formed at the same level of structure. is encapsulated in the structure and behavior of a single integrated signal flow network.

x and y. These signals are transformed by functions.two discrete audio synthesis networks are routed to global busses. The output of channel 1.12. and vice versa. and the continuous outputs of those functions are routed to parameter slots in the discrete channels. 125 .12). and then back to parameter slots within the discrete networks (figure 4. after underdoing functional transformation. Discrete audio synthesis networks are coupled to form an interacting composite network. Global busses A1 and A2 serve as placeholders for the output signals of channels 1 and 2 . is used to regulate the internal behavior of channel 2. GLOBAL A1 A2 1 2 x y Figure 4.

This presents an interesting design 126 . and vice versa. where they had previously formed uncoupled autonomous systems. could be used to regulate one another’s behavior. the output of channel 1 is routed back to a parameter slot in channel 2. i.e. The way in which the bussed signals act as regulatory mechanisms in the respective synthesis networks is defined by the mapping functions. indicated in figure 4.12. without human intervention. its topology—creates a coupling between the two discrete audio synthesis networks. behavioral patterns are determined in part by signals that originate outside the network. the possibility for nonlinear dynamical behaviors in the composite (coupled) system. track the signal’s frequency or amplitude characteristics.. internal behavior is nonautonomous. Any of these choices would create the possibility for complex behavioral dependencies between the two synthesis networks. Summary From the perspective of either of the discrete networks in figure 4. however.11).. They might. The output signals from the two channels. scale it to an effective range and map the resulting signal to the slot.e. they now form coupled nonautonomous systems. then. The structure of the network—i. These functions might encapsulate any number of behaviors. and exhibits behavior.12 as x and y. the composite network (comprised of the two interacting subnetworks) could be said to be autonomous. and so on. scale the audio signal to an effective range. for example. as it operates. From the perspective of a human observer. and at the same time.In this example. rather than being summed (as in figure 4. map the audio signal unaltered into the parameter slot.

but at the same time. embodies the potential for dynamical behavior when coupled to a human performer. And these interdependencies are key to the “push-and-pull” dynamics that define the instrument’s kinds of resistance. But the question remains as to how one might go about calibrating the system in such a way that it requires human action. the kind of system that is more compelling with a view to enactive performance practice would be one that.. call for calibration of the system—a “tuning” of the system’s dynamical responsiveness—when human action enters the equation. i. this model forms the basis of the first usage example I will outline in the next section. In summary.problem: we want the instrument to have rich.12.e. although we could engineer a system that exhibits dynamical behavior without human involvement. the instrument responds and resists with proportionately rich and varied sonic behavior. we want those dynamics to emerge in the coupling of the instrument to a human performer. then. however. rather than exhibiting autonomous dynamical behavior. It does. such that when there is a “push-and-pull” of physical forces at the hardware layer. This does not rule out the kind of model encapsulated in figure 4. I’ll take up this issue by outlining two specific usage examples. So. In fact. the mapping framework allows for the creation of complex interdependencies between system components. structured dynamics. 127 .

Feely: Usage Examples Overview In this section I outline two examples of Mr. in such a way that the two discrete audio synthesis networks regulate one another’s behavior in a manner determined by the output of the functions x and y. Example 1: Pushing the envelope Figure 4. Or. then. L1. The example in figure 4.13 illustrates an extension of the interacting composite network of figure 4.4 Mr. more specifically. As in figure 4. to different modes of embodied activity. through the addition of two local busses.12. because they point to different kinds of resistance. The two usage examples are interesting. because their differences illustrate the ways in which diverse implementations might highlight distinct facets of a single basic concern: enactive performance practice.12.1 and L2.1. and vice versa. 128 . the first model is in an early stage of development.13 departs from that of figure 4. however. and to different realizational potentialities. I have chosen these specific examples because of their differences.12. while the second is relatively mature. At the present writing. the output of channel 1 is mapped via a global bus to a parameter slot in channel 2. Feely in use.4.

these busses are mapped to parameter slots of mapping functions that are internal to the system. Functional covariance.13. Rather than being mapped to parameter slots in the nodes that comprise the synthesis network. where the output of function a serves as a continuous input. and the output of function b serves as a continuous input to function y. to function x.1 and L2. These signals are mapped to parameter slots of mapping functions internal to the composite audio synthesis network.1 provide the effective point of access to the system for human action.1 are placeholders for signals from Mr. they 129 .GLOBAL 1 L1..1 and L2. i. The local busses L1.1 A1 A2 a x b y Figure 4. or argument. Feely’s Channel Section.e. This is an instance of “functionparameter” mapping.1 2 L2. Local busses L1.

1 and L2. and is covariant with human action.13) represent composite functions: amplitude followers (on the signals at A2 and A1 respectively) modulated by the output of a logistic mapping function: xn+1 = µxn(1 . In the “pushing the envelope” model. The two busses per channel that are not shown in figure 4.xn) 130 . The way in which the output signals of the coupled channels regulate one another’s behavior. which utilizes five discrete audio synthesis networks and assigns three local busses to each network. corresponding to the five channels of three knobs that comprise Mr. These mappings vary across different implementations of the basic system.13 are mapped to various parameter nodes in the respective discrete audio synthesis networks. Feely that goes under the working title “pushing the envelope. This network of mappings forms the basis of a performance scenario I’ve developed for Mr. It’s their role that I will focus on here. the functions x and y (figure 4.13 represent just a partial view of the entire system.” The mappings illustrated in figure 4.1—the busses that are shown in figure 4. is largely determined by the functional mapping from the local busses to the parameter nodes of the global busses. The functional mappings from the local busses L1.13—are key to the dynamical responsiveness of this particular network.represent “function-parameter” mappings. but in all instances map into continuous ranges as suitable to the synthesis parameter in question. Feely’s Channel Section. then.

already embody the potential for complex dynamical behavior. essentially. The effective ranges of a and b are scaled to a dynamically rich range in µ (between 2. effecting a coupling between the two channels. and is entirely unstable when µ is greater than 3. the corresponding knobs in Mr.2 respectively. The amplitude of this function’s output will vary proportionately with the rate of performer activity at the hardware controls—i. The parameter slots in the mapping functions x and y (figure 4. Feely’s Channel Section— that are connected to the bus. the greater the amplitude of the resulting signal. that the more “active” the activity. 1]). As the outputs of a and b are effectively plugged into µ.The outputs of x and y are connected as level controls at the output stage of channels 1 and 2 respectively. It represents a simple nonlinear system. the response of which becomes increasingly chaotic when the value of µ is greater than 3. The logistic mapping function is interesting because the trajectory of its orbit varies with different values of the variable µ.13) represent the variable µ in the logistic mapping function. a range that encompasses the discontinuous transition from flat to chaotic dynamics through successive period doublings).e. then. This means. where the dynamical contour of the modulated signals derived from A2 and A1 may be more or less chaotic or “flat” depending on the assignment of a constant value to µ.1 and L1. This creates for a potentially very interesting mapping.87. The mapping functions x and y.87 (assuming values of x in the range [-1. which results in the system as a whole having response 131 .9 and 3.13 represent the slope (rate of change) of the signals at busses L1. the dynamical contour of the outputs of x and y are directly proportional to the rate of performer activity. The functions a and b in figure 4.

14) will result in a proportionate increase in the “degree of chaos” in the outputs of functions x and y.e. TIME Figure 4.characteristics that vary dynamically with the “push-and-pull” of human motor actions. the “pushing the envelope” model has certain interesting implications for performance. For example. because of the way the system is calibrated—specifically the “tuning” of the logistic map variable µ in relation to the rate of change of motor activity—it requires a performer. In practice. Firstly. an increase in the rate of left-right knob “twiddling” with respect to time (figure 4. Left-right knob manipulation with respect to time. To that extent. without performer action. the response of the system is dynamically flat. Secondly. the system requires considerable physical effort on the part of the performer to elicit dynamically rich responses from the software system. Thirdly.14. i.. it requires a considerable investment of performative energy. the system doesn’t just require the performer. the behavior of the system as a whole is far from 132 .

at the same time that they continue to be more closely aligned to certain expectations. as encapsulated in the functional mappings from outputs in one channel to parameter nodes in another. and these patterns are yielding varieties of sonic responsiveness that. and particularly on the way that dynamical changes propagate through the composite network. certain recurrent patterns of motor activity have begun to emerge. although the performer may place the focus of activity at any one moment within a specific channel—and the human anatomical constraint of two-handedness tends to determine this kind of pattern in performance—the effects of that activity will nonetheless be felt throughout the composite network comprised of all five channels. also continue to yield new and often surprising dynamical contours. there are parallels in the dynamics of the “pushing the envelope” network to the dynamics of many conventional acoustic instruments.transparent at first use. That is to say. and in fact demands significant experimentation before certain consistent patterns and responses begin to reveal themselves. In my experience thus far with this system. The key implication of these interdependencies is that performative actions directed toward a single channel of controls will have consequences beyond the scope of the discrete audio synthesis network to which those controls are connected. The complexity of the system’s dynamical responsiveness is effectively guaranteed by the interdependencies of the five discrete audio synthesis networks. 133 . Example 2: Surfing the fractal wave (at the end of history) In certain respects. I’ve found that it’s not possible to get an overall conceptual grasp on its range of behavior. Nonetheless.

e. The mode of performance. Where performance with conventional acoustic instruments ordinarily requires a “pushing” of kinetic energy into the instrumental mechanism in order to set things in motion. dominant and non-dominant 3 The name is borrowed from the title of a 1997 Terence McKenna lecture (http://www. There is. The model I outline in this section—“surfing the fractal wave (at the end of history)”3—embodies an altogether different kind of resistance and affords an altogether different variety of motor activity. My appropriation. Patterns of motor activity in “surfing the fractal wave” are designed around the asymmetry of “handedness” (Guiard 1987). an “absorbed coping” that is about the timely navigation of energy flows in the environment. then.abrupt.” And when human energy is transmitted to the system. Hence the distinction between “surfing” and “pushing” analogies. a particular way in which the model requires the performer: it requires a “pushing”—a directed expenditure of kinetic energy—to actualize the dynamic potential that is immanent to the network. i. is more concerned with giving dynamical shape and contour to these motions. rather than the directed transmission of energy flows that originate in the body.When there is no input of human energy. things are already in motion in the instrumental mechanism. for example. in the “surfing the fractal wave” model.html). the instrument’s response is “flat. has very little to do with McKenna's original intention. the system’s dynamical responsiveness is proportionate to the amplitude of that energy. 134 .. then.org/LOGOS/tm970423. however.

The left hand sets the frame of reference for action of the right. The “surfing the fractal wave” model heads in this direction. (Kabbash. Kabbash et al. but they cooperate in the accomplishment of the larger task that those sub-tasks comprise. then the right starts to write with the pen. while the right hand holds the brush and does the fine strokes onto the canvas. 3. For example. the left hand holds the nail while the right does the hammering. a tendency that is self-reinforcing across a wide range of activities and over repeated performances. For example. the left hand grips the paper. Buxton. and Sellen 1994:418) Each of these examples could be viewed as aspects of a single embodied tendency. 2. advocate the design of humancomputer interfaces that exploit the habitual ways in which humans tend to use their hands in skillful activity. For example the left hand brings the painter’s palette in and out of range.15 represents a partial view of the “surfing the fractal wave” network model. Buxton and Sellen describe three characteristic ways in which the two hands are asymmetrically dependent in select everyday tasks: 1. The granularity of action of the left hand is coarser than that of the right. The sequence of motion is left then right. Figure 4. Kabbash.hands are afforded independent sub-tasks. 135 . in hammering a nail.

3 Audio Network Figure 4.1 C1. The sequencer sends a stream of timed triggers to parameters in each of five discrete audio synthesis networks (for clarity. “Surfing the fractal wave” network model. Local busses (C1. 136 . These controls “filter” the results of the mapping from the sequencer stream to each of the discrete audio synthesis networks. only two are shown).2 C2. The x and y outputs of a joystick with global scope (JSX. Some feedback networks. Knob manipulations are in most instances performed by the right hand.1-3) read signals from the knobs in Mr.1-3 and C2.3 Audio Network 2 C2. JSY) are mapped to parameter slots of a chaotic sequencer function (SEQ).15. mapping functions and audio synthesis network schemata have been omitted for clarity. Joystick manipulations are always performed by the left hand. Feely’s Channel Section.LH GLOBAL JSX a SEQ JSY b RH 1 C1.2 C1.1 C2.

4 The "chaotic" sequencer function is not technically chaotic (in mathematical terms).The diagram divides the network space into left hand and right hand regions. Sequencer pulse stream when the joystick is in centre (“resting”) position.4 The sequencer is calibrated in such a way that its output is more or less stable when the values of the mapping functions a and b are close to the centre of their effective ranges. 137 . where certain gestural patterns emerge in response to the dynamical properties of the “function-parameter” mappings of the global busses JSX and JSY (placeholders for continuous signals from the x and y axes of the joystick. with a regular and stable amplitude pattern (figure 4. In performance. the pads of the left hand fingers tend to “ride” the joystick. The designation can be taken to be qualitative. Time Figure 4. at a medium tempo. In practice this means that when the joystick is in its centre position (the resting position for a “spring-back” style joystick). the sequencer clock outputs a steady stream of pulses. respectively) into the output of a chaotic sequencer (SEQ).16.16).

The parameter slot to which the mapping function b is connected represents a chaotic variable in the sequencer function. Sequencer pulse stream when there is a left-to-right movement across the joystick’s x axis. An increase in the value of both of these parameters (corresponding to a bottom-to138 . this single variable determines two aspects of the sequencer’s behavior: 1. In short. The parameter slot to which a is mapped represents a multiplication argument for the sequencer’s clock frequency and base amplitude.The mapping functions a and b determine.17. An increase in the signal at JSX.17). however. the probability that successive values read from an internal finite state machine are mapped to the amplitude of the pulse stream. the degree of pulse “nestedness. then—corresponding to a left-to-right movement across the joystick’s x axis—results in an increase in the pulse stream’s frequency and amplitude (figure 4.” and 2. Time R JSX L SEQ Figure 4. that deviations in the x and y axes of the joystick result in more complex behaviors in the pulse stream.

and where the irregularly patterned output of the internal finite state machine incrementally encroaches on the otherwise linear behavior of the amplitude mapping in the mapping function a (corresponding to the left-to-right movement across the joystick’s x axis). The output of the pulse stream shows the trajectory towards a higher “degree of chaos” over time.top movement in the joystick’s y axis) results in an increase in the system’s entropy.18 adds a bottom-to-top movement in the joystick’s y axis to the left-to-right movement in the x axis illustrated in figure 4. Sequencer pulse stream when there is a left-to-right movement across the joystick’s x axis. Time R JSX L T JSY B SEQ Figure 4. Figure 4. The increase in the signal at JSY results in a greater 139 . and a bottom-to-top movement across the y axis.18. where pulse “nestedness” implies a greater likelihood of frequency multiplication from one pulse to the next (and therefore a greater likelihood of extra pulses being “nested” into the pulse stream).17.

The perceptual guiding of left-hand actions in “surfing the fractal wave” is more integrated than figure 4. and between the kinds of responses that right hand actions might elicit from each of the networks. Rather. These resonators embody different resonance models (with different dynamical responses). there can be no complete picture without considering how these sub-tasks coordinate and cooperate. there are strong symmetries between their behaviors.” And while it’s useful to break the activity down into left and right hand sub-tasks. where the pulses that are mapped into each of network serve as excitors.18 would indicate). And it’s in these motions that a “feel” develops for the sequencer’s stable and chaotic regions. and for the shift from greater-to-lesser and lesser-to-greater degrees of event density with respect to time. The output of the chaotic sequencer is mapped to parameters in each of the five discrete audio synthesis networks. the performer guides the left-hand through singular trajectories across a two-dimensional space. But these motor patterns constitute only one part of the coordinated left hand/right hand movements that amount to “surfing the fractal wave.18 would suggest. but there are certain 140 . While each of these networks encapsulates different dynamical responses. the transitions between then.likelihood of “nestedness” in the pulse stream. Each of the five synthesis networks implements a resonator function. While the joystick operates across two degrees of freedom—the x and y axes—the performer does not break the activity down into separate movements in two dimensions (as figure 4. and a greater likelihood of irregularities in amplitude patterns.

2 C2.” “Width. Feely’s Channel Section correspond to rows of busses in the diagram.5 Figure 4. where rows of knobs in Mr. This has the 141 .1 C1. where each of those percepts corresponds to the same bus number assignment in each channel. That is. “Width” corresponds to busses C1-5.perceptual constants from one network to the next.4.19.1.2 C1.” “Resonance”) are assigned to corresponding busses across each channel.1 C2.3 Audio Network C2. Percepts (“Gate.3. High level “percepts” are symmetrical across each of the five channels. Perceptual symmetries in the functional mapping from busses to the audio networks across distinct channels. The symmetry holds at the level of hardware.2. Figure 4. and “Resonance” corresponds to busses C1-5.19 shows the mapping from local busses to two of the five discrete audio synthesis channels. 1 Pulse Stream GATE WIDTH RESONANCE 2 C1. “Gate” corresponds to busses C1-5.3 Audio Network 3.

but its effect is symmetrical: turning the corresponding knob from left to right has the effect of “loosening the elasticity” of each resonator. The “Resonance” mechanism is the most varied in terms of implementation across the five channels. all pulses are passed when the gate’s value is one. i.5 probability of passing when the gate’s value is 0.5. whereas these events will take on longer durations (correlating to the perception of having a greater temporal width) as the resonator’s “elasticity” is slackened.effect of similar classes of response being elicited from corresponding knobs in each of the five channels of Mr.. their bandwidths. Of course. a tighter “elasticity” (implemented as a shorter impulse response in the delay lines in the resonator’s filterbank) will result in shorter output events. The implementation of the “Width” mechanism varies slightly from one channel to the next. then. Feely’s Control Section. the resonant frequencies. i. It is tied in specifically to parameter nodes in the resonator that change the resonator’s dynamical responsiveness. It acts. and each pulse in the stream has a 0.e. The “Gate” mechanism is functionally identical across all five channels: turning the corresponding knob from left to right has the effect of allowing a greater number of pulses to pass through a gated input to each resonator.e. where no pulses are passed to the resonator system when the gate’s value is zero. as an event filter on the pulse stream. these “percepts” require a symmetry in terms of the effect of functional mappings into each of the discrete audio synthesis networks if their particular perceptual qualities are to be discerned and distinguished. and the ways in which the filters that 142 .

the respective actions form a continuous interplay of complementary motions—as opposed to a sequence of isolated events—and the transference from left-handed to right-handed motions takes place at a much finer granularity of temporal scale. and a modifier of the dynamical properties of the events that emerge from pulses hitting the resonator functions. The left hand sets the frame of reference for action of the right. 143 . as it unfolds.” there is a correspondence to each of the three characteristic behaviors of bimanual asymmetric action that Kabbash et al. In the breakdown of right hand and left hand tasks in “surfing the fractal wave. In the “surfing the fractal wave” model. The sequence of motion is left then right. left hand movements give contour to the dynamical unfolding of the pulse stream.comprise the resonator’s internal filterbank interact. Across all five channels. But unlike Kabbash et al. self-oscillation and nonlinear behavior. while the right hand acts as an event filter on the stream. point out. It’s worth addressing each point in turn: 1. turning the “Resonance” knob from left to right tends to shift the dynamical response of the resonator increasingly towards distortion.’s corresponding example (“the left hand grips the paper. then the right starts to write with the pen”). is the frame of reference for the “picking” and “shaping” of discrete events that characterizes right hand actions. This follows from the first point: the right hand modifies the event stream only after the left hand has given the stream its dynamical contour. 2. The pulse stream.

and they do not require grasping. These joystick manipulations do not require the hand to reposition itself across discrete points on the control surface.” The two key aspects to the model of activity in “surfing the fractal wave” are the “surfing” aspect. The granularity of action of the left hand is coarser than that of the right.’s corresponding example: “the left hand brings the painter’s palette in and out of range. Feely’s Channel Section. leaving the little finger to move the joystick through the two dimensional plane while the thumb and pointer finger turn the knobs. But even this action is of a coarser granularity than the actions designated to the right hand. my left hand will often span the distance from the joystick to the top row of knobs in Mr. actions that involve a constant “hopping” between the fifteen knobs that comprise the Channel Section. but it seems that my experience of this phenomenon with “surfing the fractal wave” might also apply to other activities. such as Kabbash et al.3. while the right hand holds the brush and does the fine strokes onto the canvas. and the engineering of the interface around habitual 144 . discuss. I’ve found that in playing with the model. It’s interesting to note that in the act of playing. and finely detailed turnings and twiddlings of those knobs. In “surfing the fractal wave” the left hand is designated to control the joystick. or other finger motions that are performed at a fine granularity of scale. That the dominant hand should be at the centre of attention in the midst of bimanual action is not a point that Kabbash et al. turning. while the right hand activities demand on-going and focused attention. left hand activities do not seem to require any conscious attention.

In contrast to the “pushing the envelope” model. Summary The conventional metaphors of computer science tend to regard computation as an inherently sequential process. the entangling of these aspects in the midst of performance—that give the model its idiosyncratic kind of resistance. as a function from input to output comprised of a series of discrete and causally related steps. and 145 .” It’s these aspects—or. where the desired outcome of the function is known in advance of its execution.embodied patterns of “handedness. over the period of time that I’ve worked with this model. and in the elaboration of larger scale events. such as phrases and gestures. the “surfing the fractal wave” model is built around a persistent stream of events. in which events are initiated when the performer transmits kinetic energy to the instrumental mechanism. Motor patterns. and this in turn has led to a higher level of detail and nuance in both the shaping of individual sounds at the event level. This is at odds with the enactive model of interaction. I’ve had a better capacity to deal with the system’s unfolding in a timely manner. and as my hands have become both better coordinated and more individually dexterous. This seems to me indicative of the coevolution of sensory. but in the coordination of the hands with respect to timing constraints. And these events can go by very fast. That is. then. emerge not only in the interdependencies between the two hands. more specifically. where activity takes place across a network of interacting components. motor and cognitive competencies that is definitive of enaction. It’s been interesting to note that. and where the behavior of those components.

the focus of my work is directed more towards the development of instrumental behaviors that are indigenous to computing media. An enactive digital musical instrument. computation would be viewed as a process in which “the pieces of the model are persistent entities coupled together by their ongoing interactive behavior (Stein 1999:483). a given property of the system. The system allows for human action to be folded into the dynamical processes of interacting network components..therefore of the network as a whole.” This model of “computation-as-interaction” underlies the design of Mr. I suggested in chapter 2 that while there is much to be learned from the physical modeling of conventional acoustic instruments. then. And the “right” kinds of resistances—at least with a view to structural coupling. will depend on a fundamentally different view of computation to that of conventional computer science. Rather than falling back on the “computation-as-calculation” model. Structural coupling is not. however. in that they embody networks of dynamical 146 . to a kind of physical model.e. i. the kinds of resistance that the instrument affords to the human remains a matter of how the infrastructure is utilized. realization and enaction—will be those that are neither so transparent to human action that they demand little thought or effort. while the software system provides the required technical infrastructure. however. a matter of design. The examples I’ve outlined in this section point. or so ungraspable that they forever remain beyond motor and cognitive capability. and to that extent it also allows for a structural coupling of performer and instrument. is adaptive and emergent with respect to the ongoing push-and-pull of interactional dynamics. Feely’s software system.

design choices as to “kinds of resistance”—i. But in contrast to physical models of conventional instruments. then. between that which is familiar and that which is other to every day phenomenal experience. leaving the designer free to experiment with any manner of sound-producing and processing components. I’m suggesting that it’s through this shift that we see the potential arise for what I have called an “indigenous” computer music. then the kinds of resistance that the systems afford will be sufficiently rich in dynamical potential that.e. I’ve found that the “right” kinds of resistances. and new ways of encountering the instrument. continue to be those that are resonant with phenomenal experience and past practices of embodiment. takes a middle course between normative and speculative modes of interactivity. Rather. In the approach I’ve taken. while the components of the audio synthesis network certainly continue to play a critical role in the instrument’s behavior.. or on differential equations that describe well known physical systems. classes of behavior—are effectively decoupled from audio synthesis implementations. the focus of development is shifted to the mapping framework. 147 . this means that the simulated physics of resistance will be—in some way or other—functionally related to physical descriptions of real world behavior. The design of these systems.. the performer will continue to realize new practices. over a sustained period of time. If the balance between these two poles is apposite. they are evolved interactively through experimentation with various mapping and calibration schemes. Essentially. the models are not based on data from real world measurements. the virtual physics of these systems is speculative. So. i. however.dependencies in which human action is resisted by forces that are immanent to the software network.e.

Feely. it seems I’m still just scratching at the surface of these matters. as both designer and performer. At first glance. I can’t say for certain how one would go about putting 148 . this may appear to contradict my observation at the beginning of this chapter that the task of arriving at a universal template for the design of enactive instruments may be ultimately impracticable. In my work with Mr. This would be a kind of meta-design. rather. these “uncoverings” will necessarily require the development of patterns. The concern. It also seems that at a certain point.5 Prospects The two usage examples I’ve outlined in this chapter demonstrate just a small number of possible approaches to engineering the kinds of resistance that digital musical instruments might store in potentia. At this point in my work. in both design and performance. and that there are a great many implementational possibilities yet to be uncovered. But the issue I’m raising here is more directly concerned with arriving at general principles that operate at a higher level of abstraction than purely implementational concerns. there would exist an evolving metric for balancing the constraints of one against the other in an integrated framework. For design. would lie with the way in which models might be generated from a consistent but open-ended application of principles that emerge from the interaction between philosophical and technical problematics. Rather than persistently hopping back and forth between philosophical and technical discourses.4. this will likely be a matter of evolving a body of general principles that might be employed such that design knowledge can be added to incrementally. that are of a higher order than those I’ve outlined to this point.

the two usage examples I’ve outlined in this chapter embody very different kinds of resistance. it may also lead to a heightened sense of flow—of performative embodiment. Again.such a framework together. As I’ve been careful to make clear. it may prove useful to have in store some metric of actional distance between the kinds of 5 For example. At the same time that this may eventually lead to more complex and diverse sonic utterances. it would seem that they are in fact so different in playing technique as to be incompatible. though. The development of higher order patterns in performance is also a matter of balancing opposing constraints. Multitasking must necessarily involve some degree of compatibility between the actional patterns that comprise the sub-tasks.5 and it seems to me a potentially very productive avenue of investigation. then. how these models might be interleaved in the context of the same performance. But problems such as these are not without precedent in the history of design. In designing for multitasking. And while the two usage examples I outlined in the previous section might involve a certain degree of multitasking in and of themselves. 149 . In considering the merging of the two models into a single integrated model. and therefore afford very different varieties of human action. the issue comes back to design. It’s interesting to consider. see Alexander ([1964] 1997). This kind of multitasking is part and parcel of expert musicianship. there is a higher order of multitasking that could potentially encompass both models simultaneously.

Johnson and Johnson (2004). such approaches are not without precedent in design. see Wild. It’s been interesting for me to note that. is simply folded into the enactive model of interaction.motor activities that different models afford. 150 . There is a stochastic element in enactive process. This has certainly been the case with conventional acoustic instruments—and is perhaps definitive of so-called “extended” techniques—and there’s no reason to assume that the situation should be any different for digital musical instruments. at least to this point. then. not just because they can be assimilated into the accumulating motor and sonic vocabulary. Its appearance or suppression in performance becomes a 6 For example. It's also interesting to note that.6 With or without these higher order design methods. the "pushing the envelope" 7 model has yielded no such interesting anomalies. and this element is accounted for in the contingencies of environmental dynamics. the more I’m able to isolate certain quirks and glitches in the system. the products of design will invariably afford opportunities for action that were at no point factored into the design process. The glitch. But again. but because in certain cases they can lead to entirely new avenues of investigation—avenues that would have remained closed had the system been insulated from random environmental inputs in the first instance. the more I play with the “surfing the fractal wave” model. The balancing of these constraints may prove to be difficult.7 These kinds of discoveries constitute an important aspect of the learning process.

151 .matter for human intentionality. Either choice will lead to the appropriate refinement of actional dispositions.

or a development of form. Mūlamadhyamakakārikā XVIII:10 The important thing is to understand life.5 Groundlessness Whatever comes into being dependent on another Is not identical to that thing. each living individuality. Therefore it is neither nonexistent in time nor permanent. — Barbara McClintock 152 . not as a form. — Nagarjuna. between deceleration and acceleration of particles. — Gilles Deleuze. but as a complex relation between differential velocities. Nor is it different from it. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy The main thing is that you forget yourself.

Rosch and Thompson’s outline of an enactive cognitive science is the model of subjectivity that necessarily follows from enactive process. heterogeneity. a self with “no permanent substance. and perception is geared towards abstract contemplation of the objectness of things in the world.” and so on.” that enactive theory necessarily implies a “groundless” or “selfless” self—i.The structure of our language typically leads us to characterizations of interaction that focus on one side or the other of the interactional loop. These are. But despite the inevitable linguistic constraints.e. of course.” “technologies determine humans. a process that is not concerned with subjects and objects. and Rosch 1991:116). the unavoidable products of a subject/object syntax.” a “subjectless subjectivity (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). It’s precisely because enactive process concerns “the processual transformation of the past into the future through the intermediary of transitional forms that in themselves have no permanent substance (Varela. but with relations. linkages. active and embodied participation in the dynamical unfolding of real time and space—and it’s the same non-self that vanishes the moment that attention is turned inward. One of the more radical outcomes of Varela.. I’ve sought to describe the inherent circularity of the continuous interactional unfolding that is definitive of enactive process. and my writing in this essay has not been immune to the lopsided characterizations of interaction that such products embody. 153 .” This is the non-self that appears in the experience of flow—in an unselfconscious. and the dynamic momentum of the emergent system that arises in the relations and linkages between heterogeneous elements. “Humans use technologies. Thompson.

In this essay. then. 154 . But to my mind (however that may now be defined). it’s precisely these implications that are most critical when thinking about design. That is.” In Heidegger’s terminology. I’ve invoked Heidegger’s use of the term “equipment. In this respect. it is not. it affords a particular utility. a potential which would lead to an incremental unfolding of relationality. and which at the same time would serve as the measure of the instrument’s resistance. is directed towards designing an encounter.. At various points throughout the essay. or when implementing implementations. The concern for design. It would be easy enough to arrive at the conclusion that. it’s directed towards designing something-in-order-to-not-besome-thing. I think. computers have a significant potential. An enactive approach to digital musical instrument design would necessarily account for the realizational potential of the instrument. I have not dealt with the epistemological or ontological implications of an enactive approach to design in any significant manner. in designing a digital musical instrument. i. if the performative way of being that it brings about is concerned with the unfolding of relations rather than the ordering of things—then I would say that the implementation in question has utility. While the statement is obviously true. an equipment is a tool that presents itself to human perception and intentionality as something-in-order-to. If an implementation might afford the potential to undermine essentialist ways of being—i. and that the epistemological and ontological qualities that it embodies necessarily imply an ethics.e.e.. we are designing something-in-order-to-perform-music. a conclusion. Or.

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