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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
© 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
Enaction ....................................................................................51 3.1 3.2 Two Persistent Dualisms .......................................................... 51 Double Embodiment ................................................................ 55
........1 4....................................................152 Bibliography..................................................... Feely: Hardware................4 3...................4 4.................................. Feely: Usage Examples .......................... 100 Mr.................................. 155 iv ..................................................................5 Kinds of Resistance ..................................100 4..................................3 4.................6 4 Structural Coupling ............................................. 69 The Discontinuous Unfolding of Skill Acquisition ..............................3................ 103 Mr.................................................................................................. 148 5 Groundlessness ................................................... 128 Prospects .......................................... 82 Conclusion ............ 116 Mr.5 3.2 4.....................3 3... Feely: Software.... 61 Towards an Enactive Model of Interaction ................. 98 Implementation ....................
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.
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.
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
I am indebted to all those electronic performers whose work I have engaged. who would question the hidden nature of electronic media in order to uncover not just new sounds. Although my fingers are rusty from typing. or through personal contact and performance collaborations. from David Tudor to Toshimaru Nakamura. I’m looking forward to rejoining the ranks of the improvising community in a less part-time capacity.it not for those practitioners. but new potentialities of the body. viii . whether through written accounts and recordings.
and that the techniques developed on it. for people with ears. are obsolescent. no interrelated functions. It says that music is a pure art of sound. sensual vision of the playing of it is no longer required. And as a matter of fact much electronic music leaves the impression that this IS the attitude in which sounds are composed. because of its particular virtues and its particular defects. Some New and Old Thoughts After and Before “The Bewitched” 1 . — Harry Partch. but with little else— no eyes. but the implication is irrelevant. even misleading. That the physical. no nerve endings anywhere but the ears. It says that the functional shape of an instrument is not important as a sculptural object.1 Introduction Electronics for its own sounds’ sake is a resource that one would be stupid to dismiss.
to generate some controversy. at least in certain quarters. the question as to whether the computer should be properly considered a musical instrument continues. they revolve around an apparent lack of embodied human presence 2 . and a burgeoning corpus of new theories.1 The Disconnect A wooden wheel placed on the ground is not. 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. there has been a rapid proliferation of new software and input devices designed specifically for musical performance with general purpose computers. more specifically. the same thing as a wheel bearing a load. For the first time. 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. the personal computer was becoming fast enough to be used as a realtime synthesizer of sound. 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. — Maurice Merleau-Ponty. performance practices and musical idioms have emerged in tandem to the new technologies. More often than not. for sight. these controversies revolve around the relationship between the human performer and the performance medium.1. In the years since the mid-1990s. Or. The Phenomenology of Perception The mid-1990s marked a juncture in the short history of computer music.
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. considered as a performance medium. The argument has it that the computer. Stuart 2003). of the sounds they are hearing. 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. in real time and real space. In both instances. 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. 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. the modes of performance that are attendant to those 3 .and involvement in computer music performance practice. where the absence of any explicit correlation between motor input and sonic output results in a disassociation of performer from performance medium. and that for such an involvement to be tangible to the audience. it’s necessary that that audience picks up on somatic cues that signal the point of origin. between performer and audience. brings a unique set of issues and concerns to the problem of musical performance. and between performer and instrument. and that the attributes of the medium necessitate a break with established instrumental conventions. what is witnessed is a disconnect.
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). or “aural performativity (Stuart 2003). that computer music performance practice. based as they are on speculative assessments of the receptive habits and practices of listeners. I take the opposite position: that computer music performance practice remains both theoretically and technologically under-developed. In this essay.conventions. In certain respects. that is. Despite investing a number of years in the development of both hardware and software designed specifically for performance. and that most of the interesting and significant work in the field remains to be done. 4 . and the expectations. the “object of performance” is instead transferred to the ears of the audient.” and that the emergence of the new performance paradigm signals a shift away from the locus of the body of the performer. the present study is a legitimation of the complaints being uttered against the current state of computer music performance practice. 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. assumptions and receptive habits of audiences. It’s difficult to defend either position. What distinguishes one side from the other is where that missing something is located: with the performer.” On both sides of the argument over the state of computer music performance practice. there is a suggestion that something is missing. as it stands. But more pressingly. or with the audient. I’ve found that the performance medium has in all but a few instances managed to maintain a safe distance. it is borne out of frustration as a computer music performer. then. who needs to relearn “active” modes of listening.
or an ingrained expectation that an explicitly causal relation is witnessed between performance gesture and sonic result. in order to determine what can be done to engender the technical conditions from which an embodied performance practice might arise. and for the social space that they co-construct through the performance ritual. Rather. 5 . that is the cause of all this. for the performer.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. the audience. I’m going to suggest that the perceived disconnect.” that certain people have been complaining about. 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. If it turns out that is in fact the case. or “missing dimension. something embedded in the medium itself. I’ve come to believe that there is something intrinsic to the computer. 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. dynamic. is not due to a conditioned desire for spectacle. something that necessarily and inevitably brings about a disconnect. Unlike the apologists for the currently predominant modes of computer music performance practice. and significant form of music making. then the medium deserves to be examined.
see Mihaly Csikszentmihaly. and the loss of any immediate sense of severance between agent (the performer) and environment (the instrument. As such. an affordance is an opportunity for action that the environment presents to an embodied agent. the social setting. For a concise summation of the applicability of Csikszentmihaly's ideas to instrumental performance see Burzik's "Go with the flow" (Burzik 2003). the term accounts for the particular 6 .2 In a sequence of on-going negotiations between performer and 1 For a more complete account of "flow. De Musica Performers of conventional acoustic instruments often talk of the sense of flow they experience while playing.1. It’s the kind of absorbing experience that can arise in the directed exchange between an embodied agent and a physical mechanism. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Csikszentmihaly 1991). — Aristides. In the Gibsonian sense.2 Flow The matter of music is sound and body motion. and it’s a coupling that happens as a matter of course with acoustic instruments. and other providers of context). 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). and their responses are tightly correlated to the variety of inputs from the performer’s body that are afforded by the mechanism." in the sense that I will use the term. the acoustic space.
I focus on the shortcomings of current theory and technologies. but to a woodpecker it may afford something quite different (Clark 1997:172). these negotiations lead to a more fully developed relationship with the instrument. But where those writers focus on the shortcomings of the audience. or in modeling acoustic instruments in the digital domain.instrument. the performer adapts to what is uncovered in the act of playing. considered as a performance medium. To borrow an example from Andy Clark: ". as well as her intentionality. continually developing new forms of embodied knowledge and competence. presents new and unique problems and prospects. physical and perceptual attributes and abilities of the agent. and because it seems that the computer has a way of both limiting the body’s possibilities and diminishing its potential for resistance. or flow. But in the context of the present study. I’m not specifically interested in appropriating the conventions of acoustic instrumental practice for computer music. but because I choose to conceive of the body as a site of possibility and resistance.. Over a sustained period of time. I hold that the computer. and of an engaged coupling with a complex physical mechanism.. and to a heightened sense of embodiment. and on the body of the performer—not because of the body’s historical coupling to conventional instruments." 7 . 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. to a human a chair affords sitting.
The optimal performative experience—this somewhat intangible and elusive notion of flow—could be characterized as a way of being that is so direct. these are qualities that I believe are central. and the social and physical environment in which the ritualised act of performance is embedded. the nervous system (including the brain). I’ll return to what I take to be the five key criteria of embodied musical performance. in which meaning and purpose arise not through abstract contemplation. the experience of flow. then some work needs to be done. in experiential real time and real space. immediate and engaging. Such action involves complex and continuous exchanges and interactions between senses. or. involves an immediately palpable feeling of active presence in a world that is directly lived and experienced. are put temporarily on hold.3 The Criteria of Embodied Activity Over the course of this essay. If the computer is going to figure as a musical instrument. but directly within the course of action. of a heightened sense of embodiment. the five key criteria of 8 . that the normative senses of time.There are attributes. In short. and if it does not presently lend itself to embodied form of interaction. It amounts to a presence and participation in the world. then. the motor system (muscles). 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. and will remain central. space and the self. to musical performance. Traditional though it may seem. more specifically. 1.
The agent must be able to adapt to changes in the environment. Real world activity involves real-time constraints. Embodied activity is timely. or of its structure and dynamics. Embodiment arises contextually.3 3. without full prior knowledge of the features of the environment. Embodied activity is situated.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. or because it actually does speed up. 2. This means that it is incumbent on the agent to not disrupt the flow of activity because her capacity for action is too slow. Those criteria are: 1. screwing bolts faster to stay ahead of the work. eventually caught up in the machine and ejected onto the factory floor in his hysterical epileptic dance. Chaplin holding these two wrenches. (Sudnow 2001:32-3) 9 . and the agent must be able to meet these constraints in a timely manner. falling behind the time. and in her relationship to it. missing one or two along the way. through an agent’s interactions with her environment. their placements at regular intervals on the belt. because the upcoming flow seems to gain speed and he gets frantic. Embodied activity is multimodal. 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. A large portion of the agent’s total sensorimotor capabilities are galvanised in performance. rushing to catch up.
The sense of embodiment. optimal embodied experience arises incrementally over a history of sensorimotor performances within a given environment or phenomenal domain. but for the time being it’s useful 4 This criterion could perhaps have been condensed into the phrase "embodiment is an emergent phenomenon. The sense of embodiment arises when the agent is required by the task domain. Thompson. 10 . There is a link between increasing sensorimotor competence within the task domain and the sense of embodiment. The sense of embodiment is an emergent phenomenon. between those modalities. The implications of this double sense of embodiment—of its "inner" and "outer" aspects—are explored in Chapter 3. as well as the potential for mutual interaction. action and perception. then. Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch (Varela.e. is phenomenal. 4. I’ll address the concept of enaction in more depth in Chapter 3. the environment is incomplete without the involvement of the agent. 5.optimising the use of the body’s total available resources for cognition. Borrowing from cognitive scientists Francisco Varela." But this is potentially misleading.4 That is. Embodied activity is engaging. living organisms do not emerge into their bodies. or cross-coupling. with an emphasis on the concurrent utilisation of distinct sensorimotor modalities.. i. and Rosch 1991). as embodiment is a given for biological systems. That is. and it presents challenges to the agent that consume a large portion of her attention. I will refer to the embodied mode of performative activity I’m outlining here as enactive. whereas the fact of embodiment is objective.
i. the “now” of lived experience. This model of cognition.” but it also encompasses the emergence and development of knowledge and competence. with its emphasis on bodily involvement in the “bringing forth of a world. 5 The expression is borrowed from Varela. plays a determining role in the emergence of cognitive systems and structures. In contrast to orthodox views of mental process that view cognition as the internal mirroring of an objective external world. that which is ineluctably the “now. Thompson. i.”5 provides a template for the performance practice that I hope will emerge from this study.e. the cognitive dimension of activity.e. This encompasses the dynamics of the experiential present.. cognition is fundamentally an embodied phenomenon. and cognitive systems and structures.. the enactive perspective takes the repeated sensorimotor interactions between the agent and the environment as the fundamental locus of cognitive development. it arises through and within an agent’s physical interactions with her environment. in turn.to emphasize the centrality of the body to the enactive model of cognition. Rosch and Thompson's The Embodied Mind (Varela. 11 . To that extent. and fully reciprocal process of mutual determination and specification in which subjectivity and the sense of embodiment are in a continuous state of flux. of an instantaneous conceptual and corporeal disposition within a given environment. and Rosch 1991). In the enactive view. play a determining role in constituting the “now. circular.” It’s an ongoing.
Stein 1999. 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. The prevailing guiding metaphors of computer science (CS) and human computer interaction (HCI)6 are at odds with the embodied/enactive approach. Dourish 1999. cybernetics failed to provide the necessary empowerment for the emerging science of computation and so was lost. multimodal. and routinely preclude modes of interaction that are situated. but its connections to the world around it were weakened.1. dominated by the computational metaphor. These were precisely the issues suppressed by the computationalist approaches. 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. 1997. (Stein 1999:482) 12 .. The nascent field of computational science was set on a steady path. and engaging. 2001.4 The Computer-as-it-comes A number of authors (Agre 1995.e. Clancey 1997. In the intellectual battles of mid-century. Winograd and Flores 1986) have shown that it is no easy task to design computing devices that would allow for embodied modes of interaction. or that lead to a heightened sense of embodiment over a history of interactions. the epistemological underpinnings of what I have labelled "conventional" CS and HCI—will be outlined in terms of a computationalist ontology in Chapter 2. timely. the field as a whole has not been immune to 6 The "prevailing guiding metaphors" of CS and HCI—i.
For a diverse range of assessments of laptop performance practice and its reception.” 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. of “extended acoustic instruments. It may be useful to distinguish between two main currents in present day computer music performance practice.” The second of the two currents is defined precisely through its non-acceptance of the “computer-as-it-comes” as a musical instrument. and would normally be characterized by the “nearmotionless” mode of performance described earlier in the chapter. the practitioners seek to extend computing devices.”7 and has given rise to a so-called “laptop aesthetic (Jaeger 2003). This is the field of activity to which my own work belongs.” A third current could also be identified. Rather. those instruments that have managed to realize this potential have done so despite the conventional tenets of CS and HCI. and I will refer to it under the (intentionally) broad term of “digital musical instruments. 2003. at around the same time that the first "laptop performers" began to appear. But rather. This is not to say that all digital musical instruments have failed to realize the potential for embodied modes of interaction. see the articles collected in Contemporary Music Review 22 (4). This practice is often encapsulated under the rubric of “laptop music. or even completely reconfigure them. through the development and integration of new technologies designed specifically for musical performance. 13 . 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 guiding metaphors of conventional CS and HCI.
the defining attributes of the computeras-it-comes—need to be examined in philosophical terms. What I intend to denote is not so much a specific device (although it could be). 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. research papers and theses on issues in live computer music. There has been a great deal of activity in recent years in the development of new digital musical instruments. The tendency in digital musical instrument design has been to focus on the pragmatic issues of design: specific sensor and actuator technologies. there remains a near total absence of work related specifically to the philosophical foundations of instrument design. but rather a general notion of the more or less generic personal computer. and that in order to arrive at sustainable designs for enactive instruments. There has also been a steadily growing corpus of scholarly articles. I believe that the most pressing issues in arriving at designs that allow for embodied forms of musical interaction with computers are philosophical.acoustic instrument. While this has lead to numerous innovations in both the theory and technology of computer music performance. this area of practice is not of specific relevance to the present study. This is the computer that “laptop music” adopts wholesale into its performance practice. The “computer-as-it-comes” is a term that will appear throughout this essay. But as the presence of the acoustic instrument already invokes the potential for embodied performance. the technological instantiation of the conventional guiding metaphors of CS and HCI.e. the limits and potentialities of the current computational media—i. audio 14 ..
in the technological artifacts that result from those designs. of course. in turn. As I will endeavour to show. designers end up drawing on the conventional patterns of use without proper consideration of the implications of those patterns for the end user. This is the first step towards rethinking and reconfiguring those patterns. behavior and cognition. and. be no digital musical instruments of which to speak. While there is a great deal of overlap between the pragmatic and the foundational issues. mapping strategies. it seems to me that the shift of emphasis is potentially very useful. If a medium precludes a desired usage— an embodied mode of interaction. and. all too regularly. But in this essay I focus more on the theoretical and foundational issues of design. The personal computer brings with it a sizable repertoire of usage conventions. Without addressing these issues at some point. and towards arriving at designs that are more fully and properly geared towards the requirements and desires of embodied human actors. there is a greater likelihood that designers will unwittingly fall back on the received tenets of CS and HCI. even though those tenets may (and more often than not will) work against the bringing into being of enactive instruments. and so on. Without proper attention to the foundational issues. 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. for example—and if it does so because of the world models that are embedded in its very mechanism.synthesis methods. reflecting world views. and models of interaction. 15 . there will. these implications are philosophical in origin. with a view to providing a conceptual touching stone for the pragmatic stage. that are immanent in designs.
more than one might believe. to changes in the state of computer programs. Input devices (such as keyboards and mice) capture signals from the user that are mapped. The interface provides the human with a means of access to the programs running on the computer. Output devices (such as monitors. 16 . is required. — Pierre Schaeffer. Human-computer interface design is therefore concerned with providing the user with a set of usage practices. loudspeakers and printers) transmit human-decodable respresentations of the state of the running programs from the computer back to the user.2 The Interface Musical ideas are prisoners. of musical devices. it consists in providing an appropriate abstraction of computational data and tasks to the user. Traite des Objets Sonore 2. in the first instance.1 Interaction and Indirection Interaction takes place when signals are passed back and forth between two or more entities. protocols and procedures appropriate to the task domain for which the interface. Interactions between a human and a computer are conducted through an interface. through the interface abstraction layer.
One thing that distinguishes the computer from tools such as. its physical operations are abstracted. considered as an interface. in order to accomplish meaningful tasks with computers. The hammer. but from the overwhelming majority of tools that humans use. in the distance that the interface imposes between the human and the computer. The physics of computational media consists in the regulated flow of electrons through circuits. see Don Ihde's Instrumental Realism (Ihde 1991). But a computer user’s interactions with a computer are rarely. is correlated within the user’s cognitive apparatus to the physical act of hammering.1 is the absence of any direct correlation between the physical domain in which a computational task is carried out. say. the interactional domain needs to be designed. the canonical example of the hammer. in order for significant interactions to take place. 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  1962) and “The Question Concerning Technology (Heidegger  1977). we see the “disconnect” between agent and medium. Rather. including conventional acoustic musical instruments. It follows that interactions with a computer are necessarily indirect. 17 . Rather. then. Already. if ever. and the way in which that task is conceived by the user. and the human agent does not interact with those circuits in any kind of physically direct manner. This sets the medium apart not only from the hammer. correlated within the cognitive apparatus to the electrical phenomena that constitute the physics of computation." For an interesting analysis of the role that the hammer has played within these discourses. and the task domain is presented to the user in the form of graphical and auditory representations.
Greenfield 2006. 1994. aggregated metaphorical schema—that are customarily (though somewhat inaccurately) characterized as software. — π. But an enactive model of interaction will require an entirely different approach to that taken by conventional HCI.o. such as tangible and ubiquitous computing. reducing the degree of indirection between agent and medium is also the goal of the present study. The overriding goal of conventional human-computer interface design is to reduce the inevitable distance between agent and medium. 1991. More radical approaches. (printed on a coffee mug) The computer-as-it-comes packages interface abstractions into representational frameworks—i. 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.e. and software data need to be transmitted to the user in the form of representations. Users of 2 This is the express goal of so-called "direct manipulation" interface models (see 2.2 Representation and Cognitive Steering Things is what they things. Weiser and Brown 1996). 2. 18 .be be mapped to tasks and procedures in software.5 below).. Ullmer and Ishii 2001.2 To a certain extent. Norman 1999. would seek to embed computing devices directly (and invisibly) within the user's environment (Dourish 2001. Weiser 1988.
It’s a suite of bureaucratic abstractions. despite a great deal of attention within the fields of interaction design and 19 . desktops. folders. The interface amounts to a model of the world. trash cans.personal computers are familiar with the now standard interface metaphors for the routine management and maintenance of their computer systems: files. 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. However well-formulated or defined those philosophical systems may be. 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. that serves to facilitate bureaucratic work. Through the set of interactions made available by whichever incidental pre-packaged representational world. and however conscious a designer may be of the philosophical underpinnings of the decisions made during the course of design. workspaces. It’s an unusual transaction that takes place between the designers of computer interfaces and the end users of those interfaces. This is an unavoidable side-effect of indirection. the user participates in whichever incidental model of the world happens to be implicit to the design. and the like. the transition from design to artifact nonetheless remains loaded with epistemological implications for the end user. and. extrapolated from a real-world task environment that is likely familiar to the user. Models of the world are born out of philosophical systems.
registered in corporeal memory—through repeated performances (Merleau-Ponty  2004). “The Question Concerning Technology (Heidegger  1977). and through a chain of subtle reciprocal influences. a set of implicit assumptions as regards the elements and structure of the task domain begins to solidify. Critical Theory of Technology (Feenberg 1991).” To the same extent that an interface encapsulates a model of the world. arrangements within which the agent is potentially free to move. and an even larger number of end users. then. and Agre. but which at the same time determine the structure and dynamics of those movements. In a similar vein to Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus. “technology at present is covert philosophy (Agre 1997: 240). 20 . Computation and Human Experience (Agre 1997). there comes to exist “a durably installed generative principle of regulated improvisations (Bourdieu 1977: 78). a process in which actions are literally incorporated—i. This is what Merleau-Ponty defines as an incorporating practice.. Through repeated performances.” As the interface delineates the conceptual milieu to the user.3 it’s a side-effect that remains beyond the bounds of consideration for a large number of designers. see Heidegger. the repertoire of meaningful performance actions becomes more or less fixed in bodily habit.technology studies. it orients the user’s cognitive activity. Feenberg. These bodily habits do not so much comprise a catalogue of discrete and distinct states as they do a collection of dispositions and inclinations. As Philip Agre has put it. it encapsulates a model of 3 In particular.e.
Or to put it another way. that Merleau-Ponty defined as the intentional arc4 (Merleau-Ponty  2004). to draw a hard 4 In Varela. “cognitive structures emerge from the recurrent sensorimotor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided (Varela. encompassing incorporating practices. then it will make little sense. In the enactive view. there is a high degree of reciprocal determination and specification between perception. Thompson and Rosch's The Embodied Mind (Varela. action. at the same time that repetitive dispositions towards action and modes of perceiving are engendered within the agent’s sensorimotor mechanisms.performance. Thompson. Merleau-Ponty’s concept of incorporation is consistent with the enactive model of cognition. they are mutually reinforcing. and over the history of an agent’s interactions. 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. If we accept that these dependencies are real. action and cognitive process are embedded.” This formulation is essentially a latter day reworking of the fully recursive process. and the contingencies of the environment in which perception. 21 . See in particular the book's introduction and opening chapter. In this feedback loop at the heart of the enactive view. These dual aspects are inextricably intertwined. Thompson. and Rosch 1991)—the book in which "enactive cognitive science" is first outlined—the authors acknowledge their debt to Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. cognition. when examining an interactional domain with a view to the emergence of cognitive and performative patterns. and Rosch 1991: 172-173).
or between the mind and the body. and the user comes to learn. We come to see that it is far from transparent to the task domain to which it is applied. the user adds to these with the installation of new software.dividing line between action and cognition. and the loudspeakers. the more quickly the common notion of the interface as a passive and impartial means to an end begins to break down. but rather as constitutive of that very structure (Hamman 1997: 40). and the potential implications for the thoughts and actions of the people who will interact with them. from one piece of software 22 .” 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. It would seem that the more closely we examine the interface in use. but also when looking at the consequences of existing designs for performance. These are important concerns not only when arriving at new designs. and the metaphorical schema that those interfaces encapsulate. and we begin to understand it “not as an add-on which allows a human to come into relations with an underlying structure. The affordances of the computer-as-it-comes determine the limits of what is possible within any incidental task domain. the interface reveals itself as embodying a theory of knowledge and performance. But it’s how this theory of knowledge and performance is embodied in the interface that is of specific interest to this study. the monitor. The personal computer arrives from the vendor prepackaged with a vast collection of programmed responses. without due regard to their contingencies and particularities. It will also make little sense to examine computer interfaces. the mouse. and accomplishes tasks through the agency of the now standard input and display devices—the keyboard.
the computer-as-it-comes is a perfectly adequate medium. are geared towards routine forms of activity. Before heading straight to the drawing board. particularly over the last fifteen years. The predominant guiding metaphors of human-computer interface design. 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. situated. we are in need of new metaphors. and input and display devices. for that matter. with regard to personal computers in general—it’s nonetheless a topic that has received some considerable attention. It may well be that for the majority of tasks for which personal computers are routinely used. it’s worth considering what it is. embodied and real-time forms of activity. in 23 . and thereby precludes the potential for embodied and enactive modes of interaction. through the agency of software abstractions. exactly. For complex. and new technologies. about the computer-as-it-comes that sways the user into a routine-oriented mode of activity. 2. the kinds of behaviors and outcomes that might be expected to come about as a result of her regulated interactions with the medium. however. new ways of thinking about design.to the next.3 Computationalism While little has been written about the philosophical basis of interaction design with specific regard to digital musical instruments—or even.
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. In turn. as well as the various philosophical assumptions on which those foundations are built. Given an environment of incrementally increasing complexity. Winograd and Flores (1986). As the complexity of the agent’s environment increases. AI theorists and practitioners have been forced to critically re-examine the institutionally endorsed models of perception. Brooks (1991).5 Having accomplished so little of what the pioneers of the field promised in the 1960s. As a succession of AI implementations would bear out.artificial intelligence (AI). the number of conditions that must be encoded in the agent’s representation of the environment increases in geometric proportion. and Agre (1997). action and reasoning that originally appeared to have such vast potential. 24 . the agent has no capacity for responding to features or obstacles that appear in the environment 5 In particular see Haugeland (1985). This has led to some important questions being raised as regards the traditional foundations of interaction design. 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. Dreyfus (1992). Moreover.
” Computationalism is the term that I will use. see the introduction to Andy Clark's Being There (Clark 1997). that has variously been labeled “mentalism (Agre 1995. Turing 1936) computation has largely been conceived as the algorithmically codifiable manipulation of symbols. Leibniz. They would be arguing against the guiding rubric of computer science. 1991). 6 For an interesting overview of the various problems posed by the symbolic representation approach in AI. Scheutz 2002). Hobbes. the mechanistic explanation of the 17th century. namely.unexpectedly." 25 . But even this notion of computation—the originary notion of computer science—is itself already grounded in an older notion. where those symbols stand in for objects and operations in the world. 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.” and “computationalism (Dietrich 1990.6 It was precisely these kinds of problems that prompted a small faction of AI researchers to question the very principle of symbolic representation. The breakaway AI researchers would be arguing. Locke and Newton. 1997). 1936. as each new object requires that a new representation be added.” “the computational metaphor (Stein 1999).7 This would be no simple task. and socalled “hard” cognitive science. to the agent’s model of the world. conventional AI. by an engineer. as since the advent of the Church-Turing thesis (Church 1932. but with Descartes. then. not only with the accepted wisdom of the field.
e. and the successes of computer science can make it rather easy to anthropomorphize the process of computation. with computational processes inside computers corresponding to thought processes inside minds (Agre 1997: 2). the computationalist rubric would have it that computation is synonymous with cognition. Mental activity. 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.” Essentially. and reasoning about the representational domain that those abstractions comprise. consists in extrapolating data from the world. 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. by and large. through the deductive manipulation of symbols that stand in for objects and operations in the world. i. It’s such a view that provided the original impetus of AI research. “symbol manipulation is a disembodied activity (Clark 1997: 4). to see in the mechanical procedure a simulacrum of human thought.” then the computer-as-itcomes—a materialization of the computationalist paradigm—already precludes 26 . and as the failings of AI would bear out. If. in much the same way that it has already proven to be a stumbling block in the design of artificial agents. 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.. as Andy Clark has noted.At the heart of the computationalist perspective is the presumption that we reason about the world through mechanized procedure. the way in which we program computers to simulate real-world problems and dynamics. This is. coding abstractions from that data. therefore.
there is no precise way of determining whether this is a matter of a symbolic overload. then. activities and states. 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. But it’s a specific variety of dualism. for the human agent. (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 29) From this ontological grounding. actions. the elements of visual. But what can be seen in the computationalist model of representation is a fundamental objectivism in which the reasoning of the agent. Each of us is a container. with a bounding surface and an in-out orientation. aural and tactile perception. therefore. one that sets an “inside” against an “outside. the container metaphor extends to various ways in which we conceptualize time and space. whether human or artificial. and events. With the current state of knowledge about the workings of the nervous system. the “mind. In the discourse of computationalism. or a “representational bottleneck” (Brooks 1991). In other words.” setting itself in contradistinction to both the body—which 27 . is situated above and outside the environmental embedding of the agent’s body. an essential dualism at the heart of the computationalist model of cognition.the possibility of embodied forms of interaction.” 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. bounded and set off from the rest of the world by the surface of our skins. and we experience the rest of the world as outside us. a kind of transcendental controller. such conceptualizations come about as a result of an abstract inner space. coding abstractions and reasoning about a world that forever remains exterior to cognitive process. The agent is. There is.
a kind of propositional calculus—are stored as the contents of the mind. and also in the sequential model of activity that it presumes. and the relationship between agent and world has. Implicit to the container metaphor is the assumption that cognition is fundamentally distinct from perceiving and acting. been altered. There is an inevitable delay. these stimuli are converted into representations of the world-as-perceived. these representations— along with the representations of structure that establish their logical connections. The container metaphor is consistent with the mechanistic explanation.” When those plans result in behavior. and these contents form the basis from which plans are constructed. using one’s world models to simulate the consequences of possible actions (Agre 2002: 132). 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. in some way or other. the agent reaches the end of the sequence of events that characterizes the “in-out orientation” of the mind.is viewed as little more than a transducer of sensory experience—and the outside world. between decision and action. “by searching through a space of potential future sequences of events. 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. as well as between mind and body. then. And over the iterative chain that would characterize extended activity—a chain of actions following decisions 28 . The pertinence of the container metaphor to the present study lies in the strong separation it enforces between agent and environment.
The graphical interface paradigm is nowadays so pervasive. icon. 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). “opens” a file or program. 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. double-clicking. and applicable across the widest range of known and as-yet-unknown task environments. pointing device) model is due.—to accomplish the tasks required by the activity domain. the user puts things “in” the trash. But on examination. as least in part. but in terms of the accessibility of computing machinery to non-specialists. menu. through an “in-out orientation” to an environment populated by well-defined objects. clicking. dropping. and so on. and—through actions such as dragging. This is a point that I will explore more fully in the next section. and. The representational domain is functionally isomorphic with the Cartesian model of mind.following actions—a sequence of such delays punctuates the flow of activity. to the way in which it galvanizes the user’s knowledge of the world. and so obviously effective. 29 . The great success of the WIMP (window. In order to make computers more accessible. the interaction paradigm would need to be both immediately intuitive to the broadest possible range of human subjects. which are in turn containers for files. the user comes to encounter the virtual environment in much the same way as the Cartesian subject encounters the world. that few people would think to question the kind of user knowledge on which it draws. by virtue of the interface. it reveals itself to be an instance of the container metaphor. the workspace is a container for folders. etc.
and to act within it. will bring about the “disconnect” between agent and environment that is implicit to the container metaphor. however. 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. An objectivist model of representational content. The objects of the virtual environment provide the locus for interaction. I take no position on the suitability of objectivist forms of representation to everyday or mundane computational tasks. and the user retains the status of detached controller. they bring the user to conceive of the task domain. The model of the world as embodied in the interface will effectively lead to its own realization. therefore throws up a not inconsiderable 30 . If. All is (most likely) well for the maintenance of a spreadsheet. in such a way that the focus is directed at changing or manipulating those states. which would situate the agent’s cognitive activities outside her environment. activities in which it would make sense to have an objective cognizance of the contents of the task domain. But these are not ordinarily the types of activities in which the agent’s optimal bodily experience.If we consider these encounters with the virtual environment in light of the constitutive role that the interface plays in determining user activity. constitute an important matter for consideration. an enactive model of performance would situate the agent’s cognitive acitivities entirely within her environment. or for uploading files to a server. we can discern that the interface. over a history of interactions. and the world models that those representations embody. we are considering the suitability of the computer-as-it-comes as a musical instrument that would allow for embodied modes of interaction. By definition. When those representations stand in for the states of a task domain. or the sense of flow.
For numerous examples of tangible user interface devices see the website of the Tangible Media Group at MIT (http://tangible. First. 31 . In terms of the magnitude of representational abstraction. for example. and those that would seek to structure the agent’s active involvement within the task domain.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. 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. But there can be no practicable form of interaction with a computer without an interface.edu. 8 This is precisely the representational strategy behind tangible computing. even if the form of representation is the physical embodiment of the computing device itself.media. 2006). accessed July 25. This is a point to which I will return throughout the essay. tangible interfaces are of a very low order. it is the difference between those forms of representations that set out to passively encode the state of the task domain. then. is the form of representation.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").mit. and an interface requires that the computational activity be represented in some form or other. If. More specifically. however.
for the experience to be that of direct manipulation of the interface contents.2. that is. A state of immersion in the task for which the tool is required leads to the 32 . and for the medium to effectively disappear9 from use. and indeed situates her in a specific and highly determined relation to the medium. In short. And despite the ways in which the WIMP interface regulates the activities of the user. Maurice Merleau-Ponty. it’s nonetheless entirely possible for that user to become seemingly immersed in the task environment. disappearance is an indicator of the moment at which the tool user ceases to experience the tool as separate from her body. particulary in Being and Time (Heidegger  1962).4 Sensing and Acting A movement is learned when the body has understood it.’ and to move one’s body is to aim at things through it. when it has incorporated it into its ‘world. musical performance with a laptop computer. 9 Disappearance is an important concept in Heidegger's philosophy of technology. it is to allow oneself to respond to their call. the container metaphor does not in itself account for how we experience or perceive a disconnect in. for example. which is made upon it independently of any representation. 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.
Immersive activity involving the computer-as-it-comes is therefore substantively different to immersive activity involving. is the real world. or between abstract and direct modes of user. the disconnect with the real world is proportional to the amount of attention consumed by the objects that populate the virtual world. As a consequence. On closer inspection.. Immersion in a virtual environment—e. 33 .g. it fulfills one of the five key criteria of embodied activity that I outlined in Chapter 1. i. in the midst of activity. and it would seem that there’s more to the issue than drawing a tidy distinction between the virtual and the real. provide a guarantee of an embodied mode of interaction. this is still a superficial treatment of a very subtle process. a conventional acoustic musical instrument. the tool disappears as an object of consciousness. It’s likely that an immersive activity is engaging.e. The agent is immersed in the activity.Immersion in the task environment does not.. The context of embodiment. say. this would not seem to be the case in the specific example of interaction with the computer-as-it-comes. the environment within which the agent’s sense of embodiment arises. To that extent. and as such. by definition. experiencing the tool as an extension of her body. but it’s that very immersion that determines that the activity is not embodied. a situated activity. In itself. as in the WIMP model—involves situating the agent’s attention and intentions squarely within that virtual world. however. It would even seem to follow that an immersive activity is. however. the environment constituted by iconic abstractions of computational data and tasks.
at any given moment.e. I’ve already discussed the ways in which the core elements of the WIMP model of interaction—the window. and in doing so diminishes the potential for involvement of the other sensory and motor modalities. the hand works in tandem with the eyes to move the mouse cursor towards that icon. and the sensorimotor habits and patterns that are engendered by those modes of transmission. typing and observing. As the gaze is directed towards an icon of interest to the task. There are two key facets to the WIMP model that guarantee that interactions with the computer-as-it-comes can never be multimodal: 1. or. the mouse or text cursor. When the cursor and icon converge 34 . The key consideration here is the modes for the transmission of signals from computer to user. and from user back to computer. clicking. 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. But it’s not simply a matter that because the interactional domain is an instance of the container metaphor. 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.. and 2. menu and pointing device—play a determining role in the formation of objectivist concepts in the computer user’s cognizance of activity. the weight of emphasis on visual forms of representation consumes a large portion of the user’s attention. i. the user will come to think and act in terms of the objects that populate a world exterior to cognitive process.interaction. more specifically. there’s also the how of the container metaphor’s instantiation within the WIMP model. it is the sensory and motor mechanisms that are called into use. icon.
The immediate cost of the visuocentric approach to the non-visual sensorimotor modalities is self-evident: the more cognitive resources are allocated to vision. to elicit a response from the on-screen abstraction. distributed points) interaction scenarios. no possibility of operating at two or more interactional nodes simultaneously.on the screen. is better adapted to meet the real-time constraints of performance. and this is where the mode of interaction coincides with the issue of timeliness. it’s the various ways in which these modalities work together and exert influence upon one another. the flow of time is effectively segmented into discrete chunks. as a function of the ongoing accrual of competence at coordinating the sensorimotor assemblage." 35 . see Fitzmaurice and Buxton's "An empirical evaluation of graspable user interfaces (Fitzmaurice and Buxton 1997). 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. the fewer remain for the agent’s other sensors and actuators. where any action can be taken only after the prior action has been completed. There is no concurrency of actions. and the way in which the performer. it’s not just the concurrent use of multiple sensorimotor modalities that leads to the sense of embodiment.10 With acoustic instrumental performance. and no potential for the cross-coupling of distinct input channels. But there is another aspect that is perhaps less obvious. "space- multiplexed" (multiple. or press keys on the keyboard. 10 For a comparative analysis of "time-multiplexed" (single point) vs. the fingers click on the mouse button.
it may be useful to draw a distinction between planning and agency. might more properly be defined as “embodied agency. building on a model of behavior in which reasoning about representations formed from sense impressions must always take place prior to action. That infrastructure presumes a model of reality in which the contents of the world come prior to our behavioral engagement with the world. in this specific sense. The system of abstractions and representations that typify the WIMP model are not geared to the demands of real time.” But whatever the designation.With regard to this notion of timeliness. an off-the-shelf laptop computer. until the objective of the task-at-hand is met. 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. on the other hand. is indicative of behavior that is adaptive to environmental demands and constraints. let’s assume that the computer-as-it-comes is. Agency. where those constraints encompass the necessity of a timely response. step-by-step.” and that these plans are to be executed. Rather. As “laptop music” has already figured in the discussion. each step towards accomplishing the plan will simply take as long as it takes to sense. infer. a sequence that the enactive approach would seek to reverse. in this case.” I mean a kind of usage that in one way or another does not correspond to the usage scenarios presumed by the WIMP paradigm. and act. Agency. The WIMP model of interaction presumes that the user has plans “in mind. it points to a mode of performance that is bluntly precluded by the representational infrastructure of the WIMP paradigm. By “misuse. 36 .
A menu will appear.11 According to conventional WIMP practice.. and that at each step in that sequence my attention will be directed towards the single point of interaction that the interface affords. For the purposes of this example. a mouse cursor will appear on screen. and again I’ll use my pointer finger to click the trackpad button. I’ll use my pointer finger to click the trackpad button. Upon contact. When I’m done typing. e.” When the cursor is over that word. indicating the point at which the next character in this sequence of discrete characters is anticipated.The standard input devices of the generic laptop computer are the keyboard and trackpad. and the number and type of trackpad buttons may also vary. this kind of determination on the part of the interface will preclude embodied modes of interaction. The structure of the interface determines that my motions will follow a type-point-click sequence. each item will be highlighted in turn. 37 . many laptops substitute a trackpoint for a trackpad. As I’ve argued. inputs at these devices are coordinated by the position of the cursor on the computer screen. where prior experience tells me I will find the word “File. and as I use my third finger to move the cursor over its contents. I’ll move my second finger to the trackpad. I will assume a trackpad with a single trackpad button.g. My finger will guide the mouse cursor to a point at the top-left region of the screen. My third finger will stop when the menu item “Save” is highlighted. the text cursor blinks at the current text position. But with different mappings from the 11 These devices vary from one model of laptop computer to the next. As I type these words (at my generic laptop computer).
Interestingly enough. and that these points might be engaged concurrently. To minimize unnecessary distractions in performance. Suppose that some piece of sound synthesis software is written. I think. or as simple as the mapping from piano keyboard to hammer and string (one sound event per key event).input devices to programs—e. and that it’s written expressly to be used without graphical or textual feedback from the computer screen. it solicits new modes of activity from the user. We also see that the trackpad affords continuous input with two degrees of freedom. The cursor.g. the interface affords chording. mappings that would subvert the inherent sequentiality of WIMP—the interface acquires new affordances. the computer screen could be entirely dimmed. perhaps. the formation of composite events from distributed points of interaction. Mappings from keyboard events to software could be arbitrarily complex. 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. We see that the keyboard does in fact afford multiple points of interaction. an affordance that the blinking text cursor—along with the accumulated usage history of QWERTY technologies— had somehow hidden from view.. then. it’s in doing away with the cursor that entirely new interactional possibilities for the keyboard and trackpad become apparent. These misuses of the keyboard and trackpad would seem to circumvent the impediments to embodied activity that characterize the WIMP paradigm: singularity and sequentiality. Mappings from trackpad input to software could afford the continuous modification of the sound events thus 38 . is done away with altogether. That is. Either way. Could this amount to an interface that affords embodied modes of interaction? The short answer is.
to any regular user of a laptop computer. is the potential for interaction that the interface affords. At the same time. What we have changed. that we substitute a new map for the WIMP map. And they would need to be learned in spite of the activities the laptop has previously afforded in everyday use. What’s interesting about this example is that we have not changed the physical structure of the interface. This is not an insurmountable task. chording actions would be performed by the dominant hand. have the beginnings of an expressive instrument. however. of an embodied performance practice. 39 . we continue to use the same keyboard and trackpad that serve as the input devices in the WIMP model. to put it out of the way of the hands. and it’s in the continuity of these modifications that the inherent sequentiality of pointing and clicking would be circumvented.4. perhaps. i. we might turn the base of the laptop at a 30-45° angle to the standard typing position.triggered by the keyboard. while continuous modificatory actions at the trackpad would be performed by the nondominant hand. We may. We would almost certainly push the (blank) screen to as flat a position as possible.. these new affordances would need to be learned. we construct a new model of performance. and the example shows that these affordances are immanent to the map from input devices to programs. even.12 To situate the hands in optimal position. because of the fine granularity of action required of keyboard input. then. The asymmetry of “handedness” would likely determine that. then. especially given that users of general purpose computers 12 The role of bimanual asymmetry in interface design is discussed in 4. Of course.e.
This may be an issue of the limited potential for resistance in the keyboard’s pushbutton mechanism. One of the hazards of design is the weight of convention on current practice. under certain circumstance. Or. of the arrangement of keys not being conducive to chording. and while it’s entirely feasible that the performer could develop a timely and multimodal mode of interaction with this new interface. I did so out of a hesitation as regards the physical structure of the interface. while the affordances of the interface have been fundamentally altered by new mappings from hardware to software.are. and to leave unanswered the question as to whether this general purpose device might. to a certain. 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. 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). And this possibility provides enough incentive to turn attention towards the design of special purpose devices. afford embodied modes of interaction. Whatever the explanation. of the limited surface area of the trackpad. That is. and so on. But when I suggested that this reconfigured laptop would perhaps afford embodied modes of interaction. It seems to me that it’s this very force—and the widespread failure to notice it—that has led 40 . there seems a reasonable possibility that the instrument will not be engaging over a sustained period of practice. limited degree. accustomed to learning new patterns of interaction with each new piece of software. a force that often goes entirely unnoticed in design practice. of the trackpad’s proximity to the keyboard. there nonetheless remains some physical property of the interface that would seem to be opposed to the development of an embodied performance practice.
— Gilles Deleuze. embodied agent-based model of interaction.to numerous music softwares that buy unwittingly into the model of interaction that is implicit to the WIMP paradigm. a model that inevitably leads to a disembodied mode of interaction. will need to arrive at an alternative interactional paradigm to that of the computer-as-it-comes.” which respectively consist in “the functional constitution of technical objects and subjects. primary and secondary instrumentalization respectively correspond to "essentialist" and "constructivist" orientations of human to medium (Feenberg 1999. the core difference between the primary and the secondary instrumentalization lies in the way that the task 13 In Feenberg's scheme.5 Functional and Realizational Interfaces Something in the world forces us to think. then. 2. Difference and Repetition Andrew Feenberg draws a distinction between a “primary” and a “secondary instrumentalization.”13 In terms of the implementation of interfaces. 2000). An enactive. but of a fundamental encounter. these softwares also buy unwittingly into a model of performance that places abstract reasoning prior to action. This something is an object. One of the main objectives of this study is to outline a sketch of one such alternative. not of recognition. In doing so.” and “the realization of the constituted objects and subjects in actual technical networks and devices (Feenberg 1999: 202). 41 .
The realizational domain encompasses the contexts of meaning and signification in which human and medium are embedded. The welldesigned functional interface conceals the specific mechanics of the task. In short. and. brings with it the possibility of continuously realizing new encounters and uses. as transparently as possible. Landing an airplane. on the other hand. While Feenberg correlates the secondary instrumentalization with a broadly socialist utopian project. be static.e.domain is structured. or functionalism. it is structured around a finite set of interactions which are known in advance of the task’s execution. of redetermining the relationship between technical objects and their human subjects. still has it uses. the representational correspondence of the interface to the world—i. for example. The realizational interface (secondary instrumentalization). and is conducive to dynamic and indeterminate forms of interaction. There are a great many task environments in which it makes sense to facilitate. in the interest of maximizing the potential for continued existence. in the process. the accomplishment of the task. 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. realization is a form of play. The functional interface (primary instrumentalization) serves a predetermined function. and presents the user with possibilities for action that draw on familiar and often rehearsed patterns of experience and use. 42 . the correlation between the system of interface metaphors and the system of real-world objects and operations for which those metaphors stand—should.
She is immersed in what would appear to be the im-mediacy of the task. it takes on an artificial transparency through its very leveraging of the user’s experience. To that end. and instead become the intrinsic elements of the task itself.Efficiency is key to the functionalist approach. 43 . as the task environment obtains its coherence through the system of representations that comprise the interface. and it’s of no use to involve her in forms of play. In terms of meeting the various constraints and demands of the task environment. And while the interface is evidently not at all 14 In Heidegger's terminology. the ideal functionalist interface would have the user convinced that it consists of no representations at all. the tool becomes "equipment" at the moment of its disappearance in use. Functionalism aims to minimize the cognitive load. and the interface effectively disappears in use. That is. the user comes to conceptualize the task directly in terms of what is represented. but the medium is still very much present. it’s of no use to have the user waste time on the parsing of a complex metaphorical system. 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. it becomes equipment. Indeed. At that moment the task is conflated with the metaphorical domain in which it is represented. the representations cease to be denotative. 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.14 This situates the user in an interesting position.
44 . and Hutchins 1986) 15—the model in which the user drags graphical representations of files into graphical representations of folders. Functionalism has become a standard metric in the evaluation of the successes and shortcomings of computer interfaces. defines an interactional context in which significance—at least ideally—is invariable. 2006). the more effectively it corresponds to the ideal of functionalist efficiency. the interface directs her towards a set of predetermined expectations as regards performance.apple. 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. 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. at the same time. and the extent to which the interface disappears from the user’s attention constitutes the key criteria for the success of such approaches. Norman and Draper 1986).transparent to the task domain. In contradistinction to the domain of realization. Holland.com/documentation/mac/HIGuidelines/HIGuidelines-2.html. the functionalist domain does not encompass the contexts of meaning and signification in which human and medium are embedded. 1999. The model of computer interface design known as “direct manipulation” (Norman. then. It minimizes the cognitive demand and. and is not conducive to dynamic and indeterminate forms of interaction. the more it seems to be transparent. see "The Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines" (http://developer. accessed March 20. In leveraging the user’s experience of the world.
with functionalism becoming something of a de facto standard in interaction design. These are tasks in which the activity is better served by invariable representations. But there is a danger. she is in fact working directly with the objects of the task domain. that the functionalist approach is adopted in task environments where it is not well-suited. it makes little sense to do so when balancing a computerized bank account or uploading a file to a server. 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.. In much the same way that it makes little sense to employ dynamic and indeterminate forms of interaction when landing an airplane.into the blanketing term. i. and it would seem self-evident that the more the 45 . we are dealing with such a task environment. Where Donald Norman and other key figures in “user-centered design” champion the disappearance of the interface. rather than manipulating symbolic abstractions. That is. things work best when the user believes that. It’s entirely possible that the functionalist approach is optimally effective across a broad range of routine computational task environments.e.e. this would seem to be at odds with the notion of flow. i. At first glance. that it should be irrevocably present. in task environments where the task-at-hand is better served by a realizational approach. the realizational approach would suggest that the interface offers some form of resistance to the user. One of the key aspects of this paradigmatically embodied form of activity is its immediacy. In thinking about designing interfaces for musical performance..
” The cognitive dimension is central to the process. exactly how is the potential for realization embedded in the the instrumental interface? Or. To return to Francisco Varela’s formulation. energy that is experienced by the musician as sound.medium obtrudes in use. It’s at this point that it’s useful to draw a distinction between embodied action and enaction. For example. haptic resistance. and so on. but an extension of the agent’s sensorimotor mechanism—is indicative of that agent’s embodiment in action. This raises an obvious question: if performance with conventional acoustic musical instruments is enactive. how is that. But once the agent has acquired a sufficient degree of performative competence at hammering. when the agent successfully responds to cognitive challenges. 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. weight. and hammering is not enactive. And it is in this that the hammer is not a realizational interface. the task ceases to present her with cognitive challenges. such cognitive challenges are not prerequisite to embodied activity. As the musician transmits kinetic energy into the mechanism. the less im-mediate the activity. or even optimal. While the sense of embodiment may be enhanced. and it is precisely where enaction and realization coincide. the musician adapts her bodily dispositions to the ways in which the instrument 46 . the instrument responds with proportionate energy. but it is not necessarily engaging. say. Over a sustained period of time. Hammering may be immediate and immersive. enaction involves the “bringing forth of a world. 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. There is a “push and pull” between musician and instrument.
” But this view does not consider the specific dynamic properties of resistance that are embodied in the interface. she will either abandon the instrument for a medium that offers greater potential for realization. But this still doesn’t provide a satisfactory explanation of how the potential for realization is somehow embodied in one interface but not another. offers resistance to the agent. and instead to view the entire process as a matter of the agent’s intentionality. it presumes a neutrality of the interface to human intentionality. it would seem meaningless to talk of functional and realizational interfaces.” and realization would likewise correspond to a “realizational attitude. then. It’s important to note that these adaptations. and ignores the constitutive role that the interface plays in the emergence of intentional and behavioral patterns.e. But it’s likely that. to the instrument’s dynamical responsiveness. functionalism would correspond to a “functional attitude. 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. as much as they are determined by the resistance offered by the instrument. like the violin.. or she will make modifications to the instrument that would better serve that realizational potential. At one level. i. Rather. 47 . at some point. The hammer. and the cognitive dimension continues to be central to the process of adaptation. carefully adapting her bodily dispositions to its dynamic properties of resistance over a period of many years of thoughtful rehearsal.resists. An agent could very well set about developing a musical performance practice with a hammer. are also determined by the musician’s intentionality.
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. In the simulation of the various networks of excitors and resonators that constitute the physical mechanisms of acoustic instruments. that they coincide optimally with the musician’s intentionality.e. fluid.. and as such requires the ongoing cognitive involvement of the musician. and so on. and at the same time sufficiently coherent. considered as interface. As such. The hammer has been constituted to serve a largely predetermined functional agenda: hammering. Although music has its obvious functional uses in late capitalist society. artifacts and humans—are constituted through an ongoing process of mutual specification and determination. and in the carefully considered mapping of the parameters of those synthesis primitives to tactile controllers. an interface is constituted that comes close to the realizational potential of the real world instrument that it models. presents minimal cognitive demands on the agent. both technical objects and subjects— i. and for the “bringing forth of a world”—is effectively maximized. and at least partly indeterminate processes of signification. A majority of conventional acoustic musical instruments have been constituted in such a way that the dynamic properties of their resistance are sufficiently complex. In requiring that the musician’s ongoing cognitive involvement is central to the process of adaptation to the instrument’s dynamics. it assumes open-ended. the integration of force feedback within the controller apparatus. But the 48 . the potential for realization—for embodied forms of signification. the model of musical performance that is of specific interest to the present study is realizational. it is advantageous that the hammer.To return to Feenberg’s specification.
This is not just a matter of action. perception. This is why I have considered it important to distinguish between functional and realizational modes of interaction. This calls for an alternative discourse. 2. this means interfaces that embody the prospect of enaction.6 Conclusion To reiterate my key criteria from Chapter 1: embodied activity is situated. of the inseparability of action. multimodal. As I have attempted to show. but rather a matter of the various and complex dependencies between action. and alternative approaches to design. 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. In the specific case of musical performance. And while there is much to be learned through analyzing the dynamical properties of conventional instruments. Or. timely. 49 . the basic idea is nonetheless to arrive at a practice that fully engages the new prospects for performance that are indigenous to computing media.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. and engaging. in a purely enactivist sense. and cognition. and cognition. perception.
where the locus of interaction is almost invariably unimodal.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. Overcoming the disconnect that the computer-as-it-comes enforces between human and instrument will require elaborating an alternative world model. presumes a model of activity that is anything but engaging or challenging to the agent. This will be my task for the remainder of the essay. in my view. The objectivist foundations of conventional HCI presume a strong separation between user and device. 50 . no possibility for the kind of interactive and circular processes of emergence that are characteristic of enaction. and situate the user squarely “outside” the interactional domain. or embodied cognition. The WIMP model serves to enforce this separation. Further. then. 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. we will need to systematically rethink the world models that are embedded in the interface to the computer-as-it-comes. When all or most of these criteria fail to be met. which would aim to reduce the cognitive load on the agent and make the interface disappear from use. there is. the predominant notion of human-computer interaction design. 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.
But these hard dividing lines persist in our language. I also suggested that it makes little sense to discuss agent and environment in isolation. But in any attempt to describe such interactions. and instead stressed the inseparability of one from the other. I suggested that it would make little sense. dispositions and behaviors emerge over a history of interactions.3 Enaction The body is our general medium for having a world. our descriptions inevitably land squarely at the boundary between agent and environment. And so in the same way that we 51 .1 Two Persistent Dualisms In Chapter 2. particularly when attempting to discern the adaptive process that sees a complex set of ever-more refined skills. The Phenomenology of Perception 3. — Maurice Merleau-Ponty. to draw hard dividing lines between action and cognition. when examining an interactional context with a view to enactive process. and therefore also in any provisional description of the elements and processes of enaction. or between body and mind.
Enaction involves a temporality in which relations are constantly in flux. Thompson. permeated as it is by the inherent dualisms of Western philosophical and scientific discourse. 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. On the face of it.” Disconnection would seem to be the order of the day. Or rather. it would seem that our language. In other words. it will lead us to two disconnects: between mind and body. and Rosch 1991: 116). abstract and objectivist terms.insert a hard dividing line between body and mind. we tacitly delineate a neat separation between body and world. will ultimately lead us back to a primary disconnect.” The directness of experience. 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. then. much less defend. As long as the body is opposed to both mind and world. and which are therefore not at all easy to define in dualist. abstract and objectivist terms. This presents a problem. and in which new systems and structures continuously emerge and disappear in the midst of interactional unfolding. and between body and world. It is a variety of experience that comes prior to description. resides in the “nowness” of the experiential present. The specific variety of experience that I’ve set out to describe—this paradigmatically embodied. But while philosophical language may be geared in such a way that describing experience necessarily involves dualist. and prior to any clear 52 . it’s difficult to describe. immersive and engaged experience—is fundamentally about activities that are always in a state of becoming. any notion of “direct experience.
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
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.
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
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).
Postphenomenology is a term introduced by, and most often associated with,
philosopher Don Ihde (Ihde 1983, 1990, 1991, 1993, 2002).
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.
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  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
in Heidegger’s more often used term. but rather disappears into the purposefulness of action. the hammer is invisibly folded into the continuum of direct experience. It has no objectness in itself.” 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. The human is caught up in what Hubert Dreyfus has called “absorbed coping (Dreyfus 1993: 27). present-at-hand: Anything which is un-ready-to-hand … is disturbing to us. and enables us to see the obstinacy of that with which we must concern ourselves in the first instance before we do anything else. With this obstinacy. or. 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. i. On the contrary. (Heidegger  1962: 102) The hammer appears as an object of consciousness. it acquires “hammerness. The moment of its acquiring the status of object coincides with a disturbance to the accomplishment of the purpose for which the activity.e.” only “if it breaks or slips from grasp or mars the wood.” Prior to the technological breakdown. was undertaken: 56 .everyday dealings proximally dwell is not the tools themselves. in the first instance. (Heidegger  1962: 99) The ready-to-hand implies an engaged and embodied flow of activity.. In the moment of breaking down the tool becomes un-ready-to-hand. then. that with which we concern ourselves primarily is the work. or if there is a nail to be driven and the hammer cannot be found (Winograd and Flores 1986: 36).
These two sides of embodiment are obviously not opposed.4 4 I borrow the term "double embodiment" from Varela. 57 . and to reflect on the context in which action and intention is embedded. Thompson. 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). Instead. Merleau-Ponty recognized that we cannot understand this circulation without a detailed investigation of its fundamental axis. then. Thompson and Rosch's The Embodied Mind (Varela. direct. as both "outer" and "inner. (Heidegger  1962: 105) Hubert Dreyfus recasts Heidegger’s distinction between the ready-to-hand and the present-at-hand in psychological terms. and Rosch 1991).” That is. 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. That both modes are experienced by the same body points to a fundamental duality of embodied experience. we continuously circulate back and forth between them. There is a back-andforth in experience. between direct and abstract modes of engaging the world. or a double embodiment. experiential structures—in short." biological and phenomenological. 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.When an assignment has been disturbed—when something is unusable for some purpose—then the assignment becomes explicit.
Further. An enactive model of cognition does not. in a namely. cognition. This seemingly paradoxical state of affairs is captured in Merleau-Ponty’s concept of the “practical cogito (Merleau-Ponty  2004). There are two critical points here in arriving at a fairly subtle.At first glance. for example. and inherently paradoxical. Second. Rather. It does not. First. by locating cognitive process entirely within the mechanisms of the body as lived. 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. all activity is mediated by internal representations of the task domain. the embodiment of knowledge.” an idea that. the body must necessarily “contain” cognition. for example—the experience of disembodiment is quite literally embodied by the reflective subject. and Rosch 1991:xv-xvi) 58 . According to the computationalist perspective. To the extent that abstract reflection forms part of lived experience—at the moment of a technological breakdown. satisfy the criteria of embodied activity that I laid out in Chapter 1. it encompasses it within the lived experience of the doubly embodied agent at large in the world. such a state of affairs arises only when the flow of unreflective activity is interrupted. With double embodiment. Thompson. then. distinction. it would seem contradictory to speak of abstract reflection as a subset of embodied experience. and reasoning about potential courses of action. the computationalist model of cognition does not account for unreflective experience. dismiss the reflective state of disembodied reason. (Varela.
and Rosch 1991). have termed “a fundamental circularity (Varela. and Rosch 1991: xv). Thompson. encompasses both reflective and unreflective experience. hand in hand.” that perceptual. it is through this circulating back and forth. indeed. Thompson.” Indeed. encompasses both direct action and abstract reflection. For Merleau-Ponty. Thompson. is only ever 59 . and Rosch 1991: xvi). and with the placement of an “I can” prior to the “I think (Merleau-Ponty  2004: 137). and of her body’s objective relations to the objects arrayed before it. a contradiction.single turn of phrase. through what Varela et al.” But the moment in which the agent becomes subjectively conscious of her body. then: it “encompasses both the body as a lived. “These two sides of embodiment are obviously not opposed. we continuously circulate back and forth between them (Varela. but the contradiction disappears…if we operate in time. (Merleau-Ponty  2004: 330) Embodied being. Instead. as long as we operate within being. as for Heidegger. and if we manage to understand time as the measure of being.” 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. with the substitution of practical understanding for abstract understanding. the phenomenological project is in the first instance concerned with reversing the Cartesian axiom. And in the unfolding of being that conforms to the enactive model of cognition. actional and cognitive skills develop. Enaction does admit a mind/body dualism. then. experiential structure and the body as the context or milieu of cognitive mechanisms (Varela.
5 While some authors have suggested that we should explicitly factor the Heideggerean breakdown into our music interface models (Di Scipio 1997. that with a view to designing enactive instruments. rather than the processes of real-time music production (performance) with which I am specifically concerned. It does not allow for a motility that is situated. 60 . multimodal. 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. As I argued in Chapter 2. 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. Hamman 1997. they also place emphasis on non-real-time music production (composition). 1999). engaging. 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). and its objects withdraw into the immediacy of the task. In short. the computer-as-it-comes precludes embodied forms of activity.transitory. it keeps the user in a state of disconnection from the tool. 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. timely. and so when turning to design. it should not be discounted. rather. I suggest. At the moment that activity resumes. the body recedes into the background.
will not be directed at engineering breakdowns. respectively. The world 6 Later in the chapter (3. Such breakdowns are essential. and the subject is inseparable from the world. 3. mind/body and body/world dualisms. but rather at engineering the potential for the desired kind of breakdowns.6 My focus. 61 . As with the hammer.5) I outline this adaptive process in detail with specific reference to the role of breakdowns. the measure will be resistance. — Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In terms of the technical implementation.directed at maximizing the potential for fully engaged and direct experience. but from a subject which is nothing but a project of the world. 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. The Phenomenology of Perception Although I’ve already suggested that double embodiment and structural coupling address. or with any other tool. but from a world which the subject itself projects. then.3 Structural Coupling The world is inseparable from the subject. when turning to issues of design. for example. 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.
and hence the structure of their interactions. it enforces a separation—in order to demonstrate the inseparability of one from the other in the unfolding of a coextensive interactional milieu. More specifically. it addressed the circular and reciprocal nature of these interactions. and in the emergence of performative and cognitive patterns and competencies. The coupling between organism and environment is “structural” because. the mind figures in structural coupling: it is the locus of cognitive emergence over a history of interactions between body and world. 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 .e. 1987). In early formulations (Maturana and Varela 1980. with a view to their mutual adaptation and coevolution. the emphasis in structural coupling is on the circular processes of causation and specification that pertain between the agent and the environment. It presented an analysis of the interactions between an organism and its environment (where the environment may include other organisms). But where the emphasis in double embodiment is on the oscillatory nature of mental engagement in an interactional context.. structural coupling draws a dividing line between body and world in description and schematization—i.obviously figures in the double embodiment analysis: it is the context in which action is embedded. are changed as a function of the exchange. In much the same way. More specifically. as the organism and the environment exchange matter and energy. their respective structures. the concept of structural coupling was applied to evolutionary biology.
Thompson. there is an increasing regularization of structure. (Maturana and Varela 1980: 78-79) Over a history of exchanges between organism and environment. The fully developed notion of structural coupling. or enacted. then. 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. Rosch and Thompson’s formulation. connect the embodied agent to the environment within the course of action.produce the components which: (i) through their interactions and transformations continuously regenerate and realize the network of processes (relations) that produced them. emphasizes the 63 . in turn.e.. 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. a continuous realization of “the network of processes. i. by the agent. and such that those exchanges strengthen the conditions for continued interaction. 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. and Rosch 1991: 206) The world that is brought forth. In Varela.” such that both organism and environment are more viably adapted to productive exchange. traverses the divide between agent and environment. Structural coupling is a key component of the enactivist model of cognition. (Varela.
The contingencies and specificities of the agent’s embodiment form one such constraint. 64 . structural coupling implies physical constraints and feedback. and so play a critical role in the emergence of embodied practices and habits. In other words. a quality that is tidily encapsulated in a schematization by Hillel Chiel and Randall Beer (Figure 3. This push and pull between agent and environment has a dynamic contour. or finds herself in new or changing environments with new or changing actional priorities. but at the same time locates the points at which agent and environment intersect. The dividing line is rather more pliable. 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.inseparability of agent and environment in embodied cognition.1). There is a certain push and pull of physical forces between agent and environment that constitutes a critical aspect of their structural coupling. and this is where the “hard dividing line” that we may draw between them must necessarily be qualified. and these forces act upon the agent’s body within the course of activity. Physical constraints also exist within the environment.
then. and adaptive behavior emerges from the interactions of all three systems. 65 . complicated. and the environment are each rich. Interactions between the nervous system. Chiel and Bier’s commentary: The nervous system (NS) is embedded within a body. and the environment (from Chiel and Beer (1997)). In Chiel and Beer’s diagram. the body (sensorimotor surfaces). which are coupled to one another. The “body” consists of sensory inputs and motor outputs. are clearly distinct. The push and pull between each of the components in the interactional domain is indicated by projecting triangular regions. There is. which is connected to the sensorimotor surface through the same dynamical “push-pull” patterns that connect the body to the environment. which in turn is embedded within the environment. the body. The nervous system.Figure 3. a fluid complementarity between environment. highly structured dynamical systems. and between nervous system and body. the dividing lines between body and environment.1. It’s clear that a “push” on one side of the body-environment divide results in a proportionate “pull” on the other. but they are not rigid. and vice versa. and contains the nervous system.
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. We would then see the projecting triangular regions extend and contract in regular (though not necessarily periodic) oscillatory patterns. 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. These kinds of exchanges may be more or less stable in terms of the impact of environmental dynamics on agent dynamics. What we see is a transfer function—a map—from agent to environment and back again. depending on the potential complexity of balancing the intentionality of the agent with the environmental contingencies. the diagram would need to be animated. from one interaction to the next. and vice versa. of which Chiel and Beer’s diagram provides an instantaneous snapshot. I will return to this point in my outline of implementational models in Chapter 4. Although it doesn’t form an explicit part of Varela and Maturana’s original formulation. the dynamical systems approach provides a potentially useful way of both understanding and schematizing structural coupling. Beer has suggested that when embodied agent and environment are coupled through interaction. nonlinear. Thelen 1994). 1997). And they may demand more or less of the agent’s cognitive resources. and nervous system. may exhibit linear. 66 . that.body. or even random behavior. To capture the properly dynamical nature of this complementarity. they form a nonautonomous dynamical system (Beer 1996.
the agent. The danger with the analytic part of this formulation is that. Therefore. These processes are characterized by crossings of the divide. rather than being lived through a world of abstract inner contemplation. it’s rather easy to view them in isolation. rather.e. and to understand their respective behaviors as self-contained properties of autonomous systems. more or less. i. 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. back within the computationalist model of rationally guided action. The agent does not feel herself to be separate from the world in which she is acting but. such a diagram will not capture the experiential aspect of embodied interaction. to locate the points at which agent and environment intersect. it’s precisely the point at which the mechanics of the agentenvironment connection need to be described. as soon as we’ve drawn the dividing line between agent and environment. their bounding surfaces. and 2. by the “push and pull” between coupled physical systems. 67 . the world. 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. to emphasize the inseparability of agent and environment. Although we can delineate the boundary between agent and environment in an abstract diagram of their interactional milieu. On one side. and by a form of experience that. We will see a disconnect in schematizations of both the computationalist and the enactive models of action. This lands us. is lived directly at the points where the sensorimotor system coincides with the environment in which it is embedded.
or disconnect. a virtual body with its phenomenal ‘place’ defined by its task and situation (Merleau-Ponty  2004: 250). as a matter of definition. therefore. when the five criteria of embodied activity (Chapter 1) are met.7 To this extent (and in keeping with Varela. Structural coupling between performer and instrument will. and vice versa.” I would argue that. ceases to factor in the agent’s experience.” but rather constitutes “a system of possible actions. the first four criteria of embodied activity would form a structurally coupled system. 7 To be more precise. amounts to the moment at which the original severance. and an essential criterion in design. of an organismic continuity between agent and environment. Thompson and Rosch’s formulation). As Thelen and Smith point out (Thelen 1994). The “bringing forth of a world. the emergence of cognitive. a structurally coupled system is inevitably formed.” that is. perceptual and actional abilities constitute the teleological dimension of structural coupling. structural coupling implies enaction. and the fifth--embodiment is an emergent phenomenon-would come for free. as a thing in objective space. be key to the model of enactive musical performance that I am proposing. 68 .is intimately folded into its dynamics and processes. The body is not “as it in fact is.
with the intention of holding this model in view when shifting the focus to implementation.2) that can be taken to hold for all subsequent models. then. it may prove useful to outline the various models of interaction that I’ve discussed to this point in the form of diagrams. is to arrive at a candidate model of enactive interaction. the computer transmits output signals representing the state of its programs which are perceived by the human. 69 . the interface). To that end. the diagrams focus specifically on human-computer interaction.3.e. with a view to distinguishing their various implications for the development of human cognition and action. and the models that I present here may serve as a provisional and necessarily speculative bridging of the gap between theory and praxis. But before turning to issues of the design and implementation of enactive digital musical instruments. In turn. The underlying rationale..4 Towards an Enactive Model of Interaction The key theoretical components of the essay have now been presented. The leap from theory to implementation is almost always a shaky endeavor. There is a basic model of human-computer interaction (figure 3. The human performs actions at the inputs to the computer which cause changes to the state of the computer’s programs. It’s the dynamics of the various models of interaction between human and computer that form the key concern. but remain both general and nonspecific in terms of hardware and software implementation details (i.
But there is nothing to link perception to action. although a cognitive dimension is implied. the model does not account for it. and M represents the map from the human’s motor activities to the state of the computer’s input devices. S represents the map from the state of the computer’s output devices to the human’s sensory inputs. The basic mechanics can be taken to mean the maps from output to perception.2. and therefore demonstrates intentionality. The basic model of the human-computer interaction loop. and as these mechanics can be assumed to be unchanging for all subsequent models. The human perceives and acts. incomplete.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. In fact. The basic model is. the usefulness of the model lies solely in specifying the basic mechanics of human-computer interaction. Together. 70 . however. That is.HUMAN PERCEPTION COMPUTER OUTPUT S PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. the input and output devices constitute the interface to the programs running on the computer.
The basic model extended to include the model of human activity in conventional HCI.3). this means the map between perception and action. we need only insert human reasoning between perceiving and acting (figure 3. For present purposes. perception and action. HUMAN PERCEPTION COMPUTER OUTPUT S REASONING PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. resulting in a sequential chain of actions. Different interfaces will result in different map dynamics. and a and from action to input.that the subsequent models will be distinguished solely by cognitive considerations.3. and these dynamics will in turn carry different sets of implications for cognition. Human actions follow after inner reasoning about sensory inputs. To make the step from the basic model to the conventional model of humancomputer interaction. 71 .
This model is paradigmatic of what I have termed “the computer-as-it-comes.” “Programs. Although they are not detailed in figure 3. we have what I have termed “the computer-as-it-comes.” “Reasoning. There is therefore an inevitable time delay between perception and action.9 The conventional model presumes that the human reasons about her interactions with the computer in an inner world of mental abstraction.3. 9 In the spirit of mechanistic philosophy. either the mouse or the keyboard). When these factors combine in the form of a device. and output devices are ordinarily visuocentric and geared to a single focal display point (the cursor).” 72 . To this extent. and it’s interesting to note the upside-down symmetry on either side of the human/computer divide.” We now have a schematization of the Cartesian subject in the midst of interaction.segmentation of the flow of time (see Chapter 2.” It can effectively be guaranteed that interactions with the computer-as-it-comes will be disembodied. it can be assumed that the input and output devices of conventional HCI serve to reinforce the computationalist ontology from which conventional HCI derives. the duration of which is simply as long as it takes to perform the necessary mental computations.4). input devices are ordinarily monomodal and geared to a single focal point of motor activity (from one moment to the next. we could even relabel “Perception.” and “Output. at least according to the minimal criteria I set down for embodied activity in Chapter 1.” respectively as “Input.” and “Action.
the immediate concern lies with the implications of the interface for the emergence of cognitive.” rather than “constituted. I drew a distinction between functional and realizational interfaces. 73 .4). In the diagram of the functional model of interaction (figure 3. In schematizing the respective interactional paradigms of the functional and realizational interfaces. the added dimension is labelled “Knowledge. that the knowledge being galvanized is offline. While the terminology places explicit emphasis on the interface and how it is constituted.” within the course of action. It can also be assumed that there are no real-time constraints on the accessing of this knowledge. and while it directly informs the ways in which the human subject perceives and reasons.In Chapter 2. That is. and that this aspect reinforces the sense. knowledge is “accessed. then. The distinction rests on the manner in which the interface elicits particular varieties of action and thought from the human user. I have added a further cognitive dimension to the human side of the computer-as-it-comes model. while the computer side has remained unchanged. in user experience.” This knowledge can be considered offline with regard to activity. it’s an abstract quantity that exists prior to interactions with the computer. perceptual and actional patterns.
the goal of the taskat-hand is known in advance. and this knowledge is galvanized to guide perception and reasoning. While the approach has a great many advantages for routine activities with computers. and thereby minimizing the cognitive load. i.e. it is not advantageous to activities that are dynamic or nondeterministic by nature. The human-computer interaction loop with the functional interface (see 2. The functional interface is deterministic.5). I noted in Chapter 2 that functionalism is something of a standard in conventional interaction design.4. the task domain and its end goals are made as transparent as possible. 74 . Through leveraging existing user knowledge.. leading to appropriate action. The human’s knowledge is leveraged by the abstractions that comprise the computer’s interface.HUMAN KNOWLEDGE COMPUTER PERCEPTION S OUTPUT REASONING PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. and the interface is designed to lead to the accomplishment of this goal while placing minimal cognitive demands on the human.
5. i. The human-computer interaction loop with the realizational interface (see 2. and human knowledge continues to expand over a history of interactions.” 75 . The key difference between the realizational and the functional interface lies in the cognitive demands they place on the human. it brings with it a continuing potential for new encounters and uses. Whereas human knowledge can be considered static in functional interactions. it is substituted in the diagram by the more dynamic and fluid “realization. “Knowledge” is relabelled “Realization.In figure 3.e.5.5).” and the links between “Realization” and “Perception.” are now bidirectional. HUMAN REALIZATION COMPUTER PERCEPTION S OUTPUT REASONING PROGRAMS ACTION M INPUT Figure 3. it is dynamic in realizational interactions.” and “Realization” and “Reasoning. Because the term “knowledge” implies a fixed state of knowing. The realizational interface is nondeterministic..
It’s precisely this corpus of “knowns” on which the functional interface draws.” 76 . That is to say. an important step has been taken towards the enactive model. offers resistance to the user.The term “knowledge” implies a static corpus of known facts. there is a seamless continuity between perceiving and acting. 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. and thus opens the possibility for the on-going generation of new meanings and modes of thought. the boundaries between perception. The realizational interface. Hence the substitution of the more dynamic and fluid term “realization. on the other hand.6.” In figure 3.5. I have defined embodied activity as a state of being that consists in a merging of action and awareness. In figure 3. it still requires that the human commit continuous and significant cognitive resources to the task. While realization is offline to the activity. a reasoning stage still intervenes between the perceiving and acting stages. According to the criteria of embodied activity. Nonetheless. deliberately prompting her to new modes of thinking about the task domain. reasoning and action are collapsed. experienced as flow. and the continuity between perceiving and acting is indicated by the label “Perceptually Guided Action. the model represents a disembodied mode of interaction. then.
The perceiving/reasoning/acting sequence has been collapsed into a fully integrated model of activity.” This corresponds to the flow of embodied activity (see 1. “absorbed coping. This is the first of the schematizations in which the human is represented as a unity. in the rubric that I’ve used throughout the essay. Perception and action constitute a unity.” or. there is a merging of action and awareness. As with 77 . labelled here as “Perceptually Guided Action. and that this has proven a major stumbling block in arriving at designs for digital musical instruments that allow for embodied modes of interaction.2). embodied action. I’ve argued that such a mode of activity is precluded by the computer-as-it-comes.6. and it can be assumed that the experience of “oneness” involves the loss of any sense of disconnect with the computer. The model of activity corresponds to Heidegger’s ready-to-hand. Embodied Interaction.2). and the sense of disconnect between human and computer ceases to factor in experience. or in Hubert Dreyfus’ paraphrase.HUMAN S PERCEPTUALLY GUIDED ACTION COMPUTER OUTPUT PROGRAMS M INPUT Figure 3. and to Heidegger’s ready-to-hand (see 3.
the standard model of human-computer interaction (figure 3. To make the step from embodied action to enaction.7). That is. that while the sense of embodiment may be optimal when cognitive challenges are placed upon the human agent. however.7. Indeed. the distinguishing aspect of the ready-to-hand is that it is an unconscious. In Chapter 2. HUMAN REALIZATION COMPUTER S PERCEPTUALLY GUIDED ACTION OUTPUT PROGRAMS M INPUT Figure 3. “Realization” is connected to “Perceptually Guided Action” through a bidirectional path (figure 3. there is no explicit focus on conscious mechanisms.2). Human and computer are structurally coupled systems (see 3. prerequisite to enaction.3). Enaction implies an embodied model of interaction with 78 . unreflective mode of behavior. such challenges are not prerequisite to embodiment. I suggested that what distinguishes embodied action from enaction is the realizational dimension. then. Cognitive realization is. Enaction.
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. the enactive interface solicits time-constrained improvised responses that are embodied and online. “representational and non-representational intentionality (Preston 1988). through reciprocal patterns of determination.5): both include a realizational dimension that is tied. an activity that necessarily involves reasoning.e. and is therefore disembodied and offline—the enactive interface is concerned with soliciting new responses without recourse to inner representations. in Elizabeth Preston’s terminology. If we were to stick with the idea that humans are 79 . to perception and action. and in turn shapes the trajectory of future interactions.” Where the realizational interface is concerned with engineering a representational breakdown—i. Another way to view this is as the difference between. But where the realizational interface solicits a mode of activity that is disembodied and offline.10 That is. cognition is an embodied phenomenon. deliberately causing a reappraisal of the representations that comprise the interface. There’s a symmetry between the enactive model and that of the realizational interface (figure 3. for the purposes of the present study I assume that inner representations play no part in direct experience. realization is tightly correlated to the resistance that the interface offers to the human user. and to the cognitive challenges this resistance presents. And in both instances. as this makes it easier to distinguish between direct and abstract experience. Although I take no position in the debate. In the enactivist view. It arises through physical interactions.a view to cognitive and actional realization.
but I will reiterate here. And it is because the object is so directly folded into the actional midst that we encounter it directly rather than abstractly. in relations to an agent's spatial location. or current and typical goals or projects (Agre 1997: 242).. then.. social position. can be defined only in indexical and functional terms. Before turning to design. but in terms of the role it plays in our activities. in keeping with Merleau-Ponty’s theory of “double embodiment. then we could potentially draw the distinction between abstract and direct experience in terms of objective and deictic intentionality. would also at various moments involve embodied action storing the contents of their environment as inner representations at all times. Rather. then. realization is an incremental process of cognitive regularization and awareness. and at the same time determining the emergent contour of the body’s unfolding patterns and trajectories. According to Philip Agre.7). it does not represent the sum total of the performance practice. Deictic representations were discussed in Chapter 2. 80 . it’s important to note that while the enactive model of interaction represents an idealized “way of being” in the performative moment. however.” that performance practice. In the enactive model. stemming from forces that are directly registered through the body. and human activity is embodied and online. we do not relate to an object in terms of its objectness. 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. that is." With deictic intentionality. "a deictic ontology . in real time and real space.encountered directly rather than abstractly. in addition to the enactive model of interaction (figure 3.
multi-tasking. For example. and the human performer would routinely cross the lines that distinguish one modality from the next.. We see then a coincidence of the present-at-hand and the ready-to-hand. i. she continues playing on the remaining three strings. she becomes more finely adapted to the instrumental dynamics. At such moments—again. It is also something that happens as a matter of course in the 81 . it’s likely that the act of playing proceeds without a great deal of reflective thought.” particularly in the learning stage. it cannot be assumed that the instrument will provide endless novelty to the performer.e. it’s not unusual for these experiential modalities to be engaged simultaneously. as the intentionality of the performer is divided across different components of the same instrument.(figure 3. In everyday embodied practices. which shift awareness to the “objectness” of the instrument. and offline realization (figure 3. to borrow terminology from Heidegger—the instrument effectively disappears from use. There will be “breakdowns. however. particularly as.6). 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.5). At the same time. a violinist breaks a string in the middle of performance. The instrument will become present-at-hand. Additionally. Each of these modalities would constitute different ways of engaging the same instrument. drawing the focus of her attention to the objectness of the instrument. doubly embodied performer. it will be encountered through a representational intentionality. over the course of practice. With the greater portion of available cognitive resources allocated to the instrumental breakdown. and becomes readyto-hand. in the midst of embodied activity.
it can be assumed that if the instrumental implementation engenders suitable conditions for the enactive model of interaction.8). then. and offline realization models into a single integrated model. action and cognitive unfolding within the circumscribed interactional domain of instrumental practice. 3. embodied action. then. which I have termed “enactive performance practice (figure 3. the other modalities—embodied action and offline realization—will invariably follow. it encompasses both representational and nonrepresentational intentional modes. In using the umbrella term “intentionality. and therefore need not factor in design. is that the enactive model is the only one that need be kept in view.5 The Discontinuous Unfolding of Skill Acquisition In Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. In the particular case of what I have termed enactive digital musical instruments.” The model encompasses the interdependencies between perception. The practical implication for instrument design. human intentionality is fundamentally concerned with the body’s manner of relating to objects in the course of purposive activity. we can condense the enactive. 82 .development of any form of embodied practice. In the broadest sense of the term.” then.
I represents the map from human intentionality to the instrument. and these perceptions. it does serve to encapsulate all the key facets of the interaction paradigm I’ve set out to describe. Enactive performance practice. Her bodily actions are transduced by the instrument and lead to a reaction. As these cognitive abilities develop. and cognitive abilities emerge over time through the continuous and embodied circular interactions between them. The process could be schematized as a bidirectional exchange. while R represents the map from the instrument’s reactions back to the human.COGNITION R Time HUMAN BODY INSTRUMENT I Figure 3. modulate her intentionality. as they are registered in the body. Human body and instrument are unities. and thus her ongoing reactions and bodily dispositions. and of the dynamics of the bodyinstrument interactions. there is an incremental regularization of the performative patterns of the body. The human acts purposefully through her body. While the enactive performance practice model is too general to be useful in design.8. exemplifying an intentionality. but we get closer to 83 . The instrumental reactions are perceived by the human.
this is solely for the purposes of clarity.8. and the environment. 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.11 Enactive performance practice as I’ve outlined it here is consistent with Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the intentional arc (see Chapter 2). Although cognition and the body are indicated as distinct entities in figure 3. of course. cognitive abilities continue to develop. as it implies a continuity in the acquisition of perceptual. as the body continues to adapt to the dynamics of the interactional domain. this doesn’t present a problem. the environment can be taken to comprise the instrument. however. other animals. At the same time. The “arc” metaphor is interesting. etc. As long as enactive performance practice—and also the intentional arc—can be said to encompass representational and nonrepresentational modes. realized at the connections between the nervous system. actional and cognitive skills. In real practice.the flux of the performance experience if the interactions are viewed as circular and continuous. Over time. humans. it's beyond the scope of this study to factor them into consideration. and an idealized physical space in which the instrument's outputs might be optimally perceived by the human performer.8. the sensorimotor surfaces. While such features of the environment will inevitably play a part in the emergence and formation of performer intentionality. a continuity that is also implied in the unbroken trajectory of cognitive unfolding in figure 3. It should be kept in mind that cognition is an embodied phenomenon. 84 . but rather is folded into them through realization. the environment may include any manner of physical spaces. The cognitive dimension is not independent of these interactions.
how our relation to the world is transformed as we acquire a skill (Dreyfus 1996:6).” “Advanced beginner. Dreyfus assumes “the case of an adult acquiring a skill by instruction (Dreyfus 1996:6).”12 He does this by dividing the temporal unfolding of skill acquisition into five distinct stages—“Novice. i. This is an especially important point when considering the acquisition of realizational skills. 85 .unfolding. it’s worth considering the ways in which human bodily ways of being are transformed within the process of acquiring a specific skill. Dreyfus sets out in his article to “lay out more fully than Merleau-Ponty does.” and David Sudnow’s Ways of the Hand (Sudnow 2001). In the discussion that follows. such as learning to play a musical instrument. 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.” “Proficient. 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.” 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. and learning to play chess. then.e. I will borrow from Dreyfus’ decomposition of the intentional arc into five distinct stages. Before moving on to issues of implementation.” “Competence. 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.
For Sudnow.example that is more immediately pertinent to the present study: learning to improvise with a musical instrument. or voicing. and the proper alignments were the voicing of those chords: In early lessons with my new teacher the topic was chord construction. like a computer following a program.e. It’s interesting to note the 86 . playing a chord’s tones in nicely distributed ways. 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.. Dreyfus’ “Novice” stage begins with the reduction of the task environment into explicit representations of the elements of which the environment is composed: Normally. (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. the features of the task environment were chords. but without any explicit regard as to how these alignments will eventually fold into the context of embodied. The beginner is then given rules for determining actions on the basis of these features. 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. time-constrained performance. establishing a “grip”—in the proper place and with the proper alignments. (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.
(Sudnow 2001:12) The mode of engagement here is clearly that of the present-at-hand. the student learns to recognize them. 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. then—the initial “context-free” feature of the environment—is itself decomposed into individual features. find the individual notes again. “lots of searching and looking are first required (Sudnow 2001:12). I had to take up the chord again in terms of its constitution. Instructional maxims now can refer to these new situational aspects.” In Dreyfus’ taxonomy. perspicuous examples of meaningful additional aspects of the situation. then look back to the keyboard—only to find the visual and manual hold hadn’t yet been well established. getting a good grasp. The chord. he begins to note. I’d let it go.“substantial initial awkwardness” that Sudnow describes in the complex of lookings and graspings that characterize this stage: I would find a particular chord. build it up from the scratch of its broken parts. and. as well as to the 87 . As Sudnow notes. arranging the individual fingers a bit to find a way for the hand to feel comfortable. having gained a hold on the chord. After seeing a sufficient number of examples. recognized on the basis of experience. or an instructor points out. groping to put each finger into a good spot. And this decomposition demands an on-going coordination between an abstract mental image of the task at hand and the accomplishment of the task. Each note of the chord is mentally associated with an individual finger before the hand gains a hold on the chord as a whole.
of the tendency to regard coordinated actions—such as the playing of a chord—not as the combined motions of individual figures. It is at the next stage of skill acquisition that such factors enter the equation. Dreyfus’ designation for the third stage of skill acquistion—“Competence”—is potentially misleading. (Sudnow 2001:13) It’s important to note. 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 scope of my looking correspondingly grasped the chord as a whole. where the stage as a whole is characterized by a gradually increasing capacity for dealing with the 88 . that such gestalts remain limited to isolated and non-time-pressured events. but as a single.objectively defined non-situational features recognizable by the novice.e. then. 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. 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. (Dreyfus 1996:10) The “situational aspects” here point to an initial emergence of gestalts. remains offline. however. i. The context that the performer is beginning to glimpse. but this recognition is neither situated (in the sense that one place and alignment might lead to a next place and alignment. or that it might be solicited by some other pressing constraint in the environment.
however. This frustration is borne specifically of the body’s inability to adequately respond to the seemingly overwhelming online demands of performance: With more experience. by anything but a sense of performative competence. It was going on all around me. The beginning of the third stage is marked. (Sudnow 2001:33) 89 . there obtained the most alienative relations. 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. since a sense of what is important in any particular situation is missing. Rather. (Dreyfus 1996:13) Interestingly enough. for situated and timely musical utterances.e..online aspects of performance. for I was up there trying to do this jazz I’d practiced nearly all day. the number of potentially relevant elements of a real-world situation that the learner is able to recognize becomes overwhelming. and the musicians I’d begun to know. performance becomes nerve-wracking and exhausting. its online aspects—leads to a sense of frustration. the disparity between the level of skill accomplished thus far and a newly gained understanding of the larger context of performance—i. and the student might wonder how anybody ever masters the skill. At this point.e. and the rather more smoothly managed and securely pulsing background of the bass player and drummer. with no humor in the situation. the melodic movements of the right. It’s worth quoting his account in full: The music wasn’t mine. there were friends I’d invited to join me. I was on a bucking bronco of my own body’s doings. Sudnow’s first public performance took place at precisely this stage in his development. i. Between the chordchanging beat of my left hand at more or less regular intervals according to the chart. situated in the midst of these surrounding affairs.
There are. But unlike the concrete components of activity that constitute the “context-free” features of the “Novice” stage. 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. (Dreyfus 1996:15) For Sudnow. The problem is that there are a vast number of different situations that the learner may encounter.” 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).” It also led to Sudnow shying away from further public performances for a period of several years. the task is again reduced to individual components. as well as sequences comprised of the individual 90 . But these rules are not as easily come by as the rules given beginners in texts and lectures. Competent performers. therefore.” In short. Dreyfus notes that the performer normally responds to the newly discovered enormity of the task at hand by adopting a “hierarchical perspective. many differing from each other in subtle. in fact. 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. ways. have to decide for themselves what plan to choose without being sure that it will be appropriate in the particular situation.The gap between motor intentionality and motor ability led to a music that “was literally out of hand (Sudnow 2001:35). 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. nuanced.
this plan was decided upon without input from his teacher. (Sudnow 2001:43) The emergence of these gestalts is more or less equivalent to what Sudnow describes as “the emergence of a melodic intentionality”: . this was a largely conceptual process.. an express aiming for sounds. As the abilities of my hand developed.. was dependent in my experience upon the acquisition of facilities that made it possible. now again. rather than appearing solely at the level of the event: A small sequence of notes was played. Motivated so predominantly toward the rapid course. or guidance from “texts and lectures”: At first. Though not yet a native speaker of 91 . gestalts began to emerge at the level of the sequence. and it wasn’t as though in my prior work I had been trying and failing to make coherent note-to-note melodies.notes that those chords contain. I’d think: “major triad on the second note of the scale. frustrated in my attempts to reproduce recorded passages. (Sudnow 2001:43) And in due course. and for some time.” then “diminished on the third and a repeat for the next. It’s precisley in this emerging capacity to form fully articulated phrases that the performer achieves a degree of competence. 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. I had left dormant whatever skills for melodic construction I may have had. Not coincidentally.” doing hosts of calculating and guidance operations of this sort in the course of play. then a next followed. I found myself for the first time coming into position to begin to do such melodic work with respect to these courses.
as the result of both positive and negative experiences. Should this happen. it is embodied by the experiencing subject. responses are either strengthened or inhibited. Proficiency seems to develop if. which of several 92 . and that. With an increase in embodied skill. 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.. And it’s precisely in the ready-to-hand that “experience is assimilated”. as represented by rules and principles will gradually be replaced by situational discriminations accompanied by associated responses. (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. then.e. and only if. Action becomes easier and less stressful as the learner simply sees what needs to be achieved rather than deciding. i. 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. the performer’s theory of the skill. 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. there is nonetheless a fledgling facility for forming coherent sentences.the language. by a calculative procedure. experience is assimilated in this atheoretical way and intuitive behavior replaces reasoned responses.
possible alternatives should be selected. since doubt comes only with detached evaluation of performance. like a revelation. (Dreyfus 1996:21) The “Proficient” stage is. and essence of the experience was tasted with a “this is it” feeling. then several revolutions of the pedals occur. and it disintegrates. 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. 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. In fact. Yet there’s no question but that the hang of it was glimpsed. than it would be undermined. at the moment of involved intuitive response there can be no doubt. (Sudnow 2001:76) What we see is the paradigmatic Heideggerean “breakdown”.. more specifically. you try to keep it up. the present-athand. i.e. the occurrence of breakdowns is directly related to the number and type of skills the performer has not managed to assimilate: 93 . keep failing. when one first gets the knack of a complex skill like riding a bicycle or skiing. however. the bicycle seemed to do the riding by itself. the catalyst that effects the shift from a ready-to-hand to a present-at-hand mode of perceiving the task environment. 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. Or. still comprised of a generous quota of moments characterized by a mode of “detached evaluation”. the very first attempt to sustain an easeful management undercuts it. as. the bicycle seems to go off on its own. You struggle to stay balanced.
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. Sudnow also uses a linguistic analogy: From a virtual hodgepodge of phonemes and approximate paralinguistics. the occurrence of breakdowns—i. he falls back on detached. (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. and with the embodiment of ever more refined responses to the dynamical contingencies of the environment. is the continuity of the discourse. seeing the goal and the important features of the situation. With this falling into place. a discussion or argument. the proficient performer. from the level of the individual phrase or sentence to the level of. and the catalyst of “stammerings and stutterings”—becomes increasingly seldom. What distinguishes the “Proficient” stage from the “Expertise” stage. To decide. But at the same time. perhaps. For this reason. a sentence structure was slowly taking form. rule-based determination of actions. That is. (Dreyfus 1996:22) What distinguishes the “Proficient” stage from the “Competent” stage is a shift to a yet higher level of articulational scale. A continuity that—in the case of proficiency—is rendered discontinuous by the intrusion of breakdowns. sayings now being attempted. 94 . the solicitation of self-conscious thought. themes starting to achieve some cogent management. connectives yet to become integrally part of the process.e. courses of action were being sustained that faded and disintegrated into stammerings and stutterings. however. must still decide what to do.
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. 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. the perfomer is immersed in the activity. each of which share the same decision. based on mature and practiced situational discrimination. then. single action. he suggests that discriminating ability and a continuity of response are necessarily linked criteria of expertise: With enough experience with a variety of situations. 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. A more subtle and refined discrimination ability is what distinguishes the expert from the proficient performer. (Dreyfus 1996:25) The lessons learned from breakdowns during the “Proficient” stage. or tactic.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. (Dreyfus 1996:25) More specifically. and the “I think” is supplanted by an “I can”: 95 . Actions are perceptually guided. but also knows how to achieve the goal. all seen from the same perspective but requiring different tactical decisions. the proficient performer gradually decomposes this class of situations into subclasses.
9.I’d see a stretch of melody suddenly appear. the temporal dimension is segmented into discrete blocks corresponding to Dreyfus’ five stages of skill acquisition. unlike others I’d seen. I could hear a bit of that language being well spoken. it may be worth revising the diagram of figure 3. actional and cognitive capacities that. (Sudnow 2001:78) At this point in the discontinuous unfolding of skill acquisition. in a little strip of play that’d go by before I got a good look at it. in which cognitive unfolding is indicated as continuous over time. though my fingers went to places to which I didn’t feel I’d specifically taken them.8. there also emerges a parallel refinement of articulational fluency: I could hear it. could recognize that I’d done a saying in that language. a saying particularly said in all of its detail: its pitches. In figure 3. 96 . accentings—a saying said just so. enable the experience of flow. intensities. Certain right notes played in certain right ways appeared just to get done. seemingly because of something I was doing. durations. the performer embodies perceptual. In light of the apparent discontinuities of skill acquisition. pacings. in suitable performance circumstances. in fact for the very first time. (Sudnow 2001:76) With the refinement of dispositional abilities.
“Skill” replaces “Cognition” in this diagram. Competence 4. encompassing the discontinuous unfolding of skill acquisition. I represents the map from human intentionality to the instrument. A detailed view of enactive performance practice. Proficient 5. Advanced beginner 3. A more accurate model yet might indicate the changing nature of human body/instrument relations over each of the five stages of skill acquisition. 97 . while R represents the map from the instrument’s reactions back to the human. Novice 2. It is also indicative of the developing capacity for coordination between all three. “Skill” is indicative of cognitive. motor and perceptual skills. Expertise SKILL R Time HUMAN BODY INSTRUMENT I Figure 3. motor and perceptual skills.1. where “skill” can be said to encompass cognitive. as well as the capacity for coordination among the three components in both reflective and unreflective behavior. but as it stands.9. 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.
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
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.
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
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
Standard human-computer interaction models partition the computer into three distinct layers: input devices. 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. It is at the level of hardware. The final component of the study sets out. then. must be programmed. to detail the instrument’s implementational specifics.. the dynamical behavior and resistance of the instrument is to a large degree encapsulated in its programs. So. direct a significant amount of attention to issues of software. I will. I hope also to demonstrate the utility of keeping the two layers separate in the design process. after all. which 102 . but rather. while hardware certainly constitutes more than a passing concern. I nonetheless hope to make it apparent that in maintaining a loose coupling between hardware and software components. hardware. While I shall be discussing just one specific implementation. In persisting with the standard division between hardware and software. that the performer actually physically engages the instrument. digital instruments constitute a special class of musical devices: their sonic behavior is not immanent in their material embodiment. In the pages that follow. that the greater portion of attention would be directed towards input and output devices. the potential for reusing those components is increased.e. It would seem likely.of resistance to the performer. and I will stick with that model here. But as I pointed out in Chapter 1. This is the model I employed in the interaction diagrams of Chapter 3. when the core concern is how the candidate instrument is resistant to the human performer. i. programs and output devices. therefore. This is particularly true of software components.
such as a new hardware framework.1 In that case. 4. Feely: Hardware Overview A device that goes under the name of Mr. see Cook (2004).1). Feely represents my first attempt at the implementation of an enactive digital musical instrument (figure 4. 1 For an interesting counter example to this approach.2 Mr. any one particular software framework brings with it a certain modest degree of generality.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. where hardware and software may in a certain variety of cases be inextricable. 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 .
Figure 4. Feely. 104 .1. Mr.
One of the design goals was to create a silent instrument with no moving parts inside the enclosure. MIDI A/D and D/A boards. the output devices.6 kernel. 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). Kartadinata notes that total integration is not ubiquitous among conventional acoustic instruments—e. that is.” 105 . Eight channel audio A/D and D/A hardware. running the Linux 2.Mr. and power conversion modules are located in the same enclosure as the motherboard. For that reason. 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. Feely’s computational nucleus resides on a miniature x86 compatible motherboard. “Encompassing” is used here in its most literal sense: all of the components of which the instrument is comprised—the input devices. how the material embodiment affords a performative encounter with a unity. 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). emphasis is placed on the coherence of the instrument. with patches applied for low latency audio throughput and for granting scheduling priority to real-time audio threads. the operating system resides on flash memory. and a specific motherboard/chipset combination was chosen because of its capacity for fanless operation..g. and the internal circuitry—are encompassed within a single physical entity. Rather.
Figure 4.Integration and coherence of the instrumental embodiment were important factors in the design of Mr. both of which figured in my approach to design.2 shows Mr. 106 . This is suggestive of two different interpretations. I had in mind that it was of critical importance that the instrument should have an instrumentality. and 2. It may appear redundant to suggest that an instrument should be instrumental. that the instrument should have the feel of a musical instrument. Feely in the playing position. From the outset. and both of which factor in the perceived coherence of the instrument to the performer: 1. Feely. that the instrument in its material embodiment should be indicative of a specific purpose. it is secured on a stand. Because of the instrument’s weight. 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. off-theshelf computer (with or without an attendant array of peripheral input devices).
and it is angled (with respect to the performer) in 107 . The control surface is situated at the performer’s centre of gravity. But there is another aspect to this “being there.” and this is tied in with the way in which the instrument is indicative of its use. proportional to the amplitude of the human’s motor energy output. 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.2. In the act of playing.Figure 4. Mr. The sense of the instrument’s physically “being there” is. The playing position ensures that there is constant physical contact between performer and instrument. as weight is transferred from the upper body to the thighs. the contact with the instrumental body is intensified by hand actions at the control surface. Feely in the playing position. then.
Feely’s interface is different to that of the computer-as-it-comes. This means that the instrument is intended to be nothing but a musical instrument. then. An important aspect. The control surface is partitioned into distinct regions (figure 4. which are distinguished by the points in the audio synthesis system 108 .3). buttons and joysticks. for physically engaging the controls. then. 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. It’s not just that the instrument is “there. makes itself more than readily apparent. The way in which Mr. Control Surface Unlike the computer-as-it-comes—a general purpose device—Mr. and the cross-coupling of these perceptions with the tactile and visual engagement of the instrument and its input devices. and that it therefore need not accommodate the multiple representational paradigms required of a multiplicity of possible usages. and occupies the focal ground in the field of vision. Feely’s control surface: knobs. 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). giving preference to the performer’s perceptions of the sound itself.such a way that it presents itself optimally to the hands.” I avoided any graphical representations of the sound or its generating mechanisms at the interface. Feely is a special purpose device.” Three classes of input device are used on Mr. is that the interface is devoid of representational abstractions. of the instrument’s instrumentality.
It is. Feely: Control surface partitioning scheme. Display & Patch Control Joysticks Variants Mute Buttons Global Power Volume On/Off Channel Section Global Section Figure 4.3. Mr.to which they are linked. worth noting the control surface’s basic partitioning scheme in this section. the functional layout of the panel is a hardware concern. I will detail the specific functional behaviors and mapping strategies used to connect the input devices to the audio system in 4.3. however. 109 . Although this unavoidably touches on software issues.
there are respectively mapped to five discrete audio synthesis networks in the software system. The four remaining control surface regions—labelled “Channel Section. The Channel Section is partitioned into five discrete channels of three knobs and one button each.Of the eight distinct regions that comprise the control surface. Signals from each of the five discrete synthesis channels are passed as inputs to this processing network. or by synthesis network topologies. all other buttons will be in their off state.” “Mute Buttons. These controllers are mapped to a global audio processing network. the functions of the other three sections are self-explanatory.” “Global Volume.” “Joysticks. The Global Section is divided into two subsections.3—indicate the areas in which activity is focused during performance. The Variants Section is comprised of six backlit buttons. These joysticks are considered freely assignable to any and multiple input points in the discrete synthesis channels or the global processing network. by mapping functions. When one of these buttons is toggled on. and three knobs combined with three buttons. The Display and Patch Control section is described under Visual Display below.3. These buttons are used to switch between pre-stored variants in the synthesis network.” and “Variants” in figure 4.” “Global Section. The Joystick Section is comprised of two x-y joysticks. which respectively comprise nine knobs. and in certain cases to points in the five discrete channels. These variants may differ by synthesis parameter settings.” and “Power On/Off” in figure 4. four would ordinarily be utilized only between periods of performative activity: those labelled “Display & Patch Control. one of which springs back to its centre position when not in use. 110 .
The layout of the control panel is designed to facilitate this learning process. This is not. and the underlying software system is designed in such a way that motor memory should be transferable and adaptable across varying audio subsystem implementations. reinforces the relationship between specific functional regions and specific functional behaviors to both the visual and tactile senses. it would seem that the performer has rather a lot to remember during performance. by partitioning the control surface into functional regions. by employing a static functional structure across different patches—that is. The control surface is still. This means that motor patterns do not need to be relearned from scratch from one patch to the next. across varying implementations of the underlying audio synthesis networks—the patterning of the instrument’s behavior remains relatively constant. The physical layout of the control surface. Firstly.With all these individual input devices and multiple mapping systems. then. across even radically divergent implementations of the sound generating subsystem. is not required to store a catalogue of controller functions and mappings in conscious memory. properly or sufficiently indicative of its use. but rather learns through performing. then. sufficiently 111 . then the instrument is not. The performer. in fact they should be optimally adaptable. from a base set of functional correspondences. how things work in practice. as a whole. The emphasis is placed on motor memory as opposed to the conscious storing of data. in itself. the user quickly adapts to the relationship between a cluster of controls and clusterings of associated behavioral patterns at the instrument’s output. And if the performer is required to store such data in conscious memory. Secondly. however.
which is used to navigate a patch bank between performances. Visual Display In chapter 2. and to monitor data in the case of “breakdowns” (e. 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. it may be directed to the guidance of motor activities. except as a notification mechanism in the case of such a breakdown. therefore. 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. This is something that I tried to avoid in the design of Mr. make any demands on the performer’s attention. but with a view to rendering the interface as free of abstraction as possible. electronic 112 . I discussed the cost to the nonvisual senses of the visuocentric approach to interaction as typified by the computer-as-it-comes. and to the extent that vision is required for the performance task.). even after a significant amount of practice. not only with a view to minimizing the cognitive demands of visual attention. Unlike conventional acoustic instruments.complex and multifaceted as to offer resistance to learning. memory errors. The display is not intended to be used during performance. It does not. or so great that. to integrate a character display with the control surface. however.g. It proved useful. Feely. etc. it would remain beyond grasp. CPU overload. program exceptions.
system). could not practically be integrated with the body of the instrument. and the type and number of reflective and absorbtive material in proximity to the loudspeaker. Except in the case that the amplifier/loudspeaker system is built into the instrumental body. The perceptual localisation of the origin of the sound is an important indicator of the 113 . By placing the amplifier/loudspeaker on the floor. in deciding upon an amplifier/loudspeaker system. in the case of the great majority of acoustic instruments.A. through a P. the type of floor surface. that the loudspeaker should have a wide radiation pattern. This speaker placement has one other advantage: the location of the point source of the sound—which. the radiation of vibrational energy can be felt through the feet and. The effect varies with the character of the sound. electronic instruments are lacking in the haptic vibrational feedback that is characteristic of their acoustic counterparts. to a lesser extent. This issue was taken into consideration in the design of Mr. that the amplifier be powerful enough for the instrument to be used without further amplification (e. because of its size and weight.g. by careful positioning of the amplifier/loudspeaker in performance. its frequency and loudness.instruments require the use of amplifiers and loudspeakers in order to propagate sound in space. it was outweighed by other constraints: 1. as close as is practical to the body of the instrument. This limited the options among available technologies. Nonetheless. the torso. is the instrument’s body—is as close as is practical to the body of the instrument. but unfortunately. and resulted in the choice of a combined amplifier/loudspeaker system that. Feely. it’s possible to go a certain way towards the “feel” of a conventional instrument. and 2.
Nonetheless. 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 . it also avoids the associated costs of that model for interaction. 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. the instrumental interface affords distributed motor activities without the burden of representational abstractions. then. This stands in contrast to the visuocentric. and sequential (as opposed to parallel) mode of interaction that is idiosyncratic to the computer-as-it-comes. At the same time. singular (as opposed to distributed). Secondly. and encompasses multiple distributed points of interaction. representation-hungry. 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). Summary It would be premature to evaluate the ways in which Mr.instrument’s phenomenal presence. and the audience. and to point to some implications for embodiment. fellow performers. that the hardware interface to Mr. motocentric rather than visuocentric. and for the emergence of an enactive performance practice. then. the instrument is integrated and instrumental. Feely offers resistance to the performer without having paid due attention to software. Firstly. The interface is.
. vision). Such issues are tied in with the instrument’s behavior. As a piece of hardware. to the emergence of an enactive performance practice—the instrument will be required to offer resistance to the performer through the medium of sound. encourages the parallel distribution of the activity across distinct sensorimotor modalities (touch and proprioception.4). i. These factors again correspond to certain of the five criteria of embodiment. that embodied activity be situated. When the focus is shifted from the instantaneous aspects of embodied activity to embodiment as an emergent phenomenon. This brings the discussion around to the implementation of the instrument’s sonic behavior in software. and the unique dynamical patterning of thought and activity that comes of that resistance.e. 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. Feely situates the user’s attention directly within the activity. hearing. we touch on issues of adaptation and cognition. Feely affords embodied modes of interaction.e.meeting timing constraints (see 2. But to get from interaction to realization—i. with the resistance that it offers to the performer. Mr. and timely.. 115 . multimodal. specifically. Mr.
116 . SuperCollider Server Architecture The SuperCollider audio synthesis engine passes signals between nodes on a server.audiosynth.2 The language was chosen for three main reasons: 1. it is object-oriented. 2 http://www. The implementational possibilities of these extensions to the language will comprise the main focus of this and the next section. however. primitives. 2. where those nodes represent instances of user-defined synthesis and processing functions. Feely: Software Overview Mr.com. 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. and 3. A sample signal flow diagram would look familiar to anybody who has worked with modular synthesis systems (figure 4. it will be useful to describe the base architecture on which the framework is built.3 Mr.4. As the main focus of my work has been directed at the creation of a system that would allow for dynamical behaviors.4). it is mature and offers a rich set of built-in features. and plug-ins. Feely’s software system is written in the SuperCollider programming language. First. it is easily extensible with user-defined modules.
mapping the slot to the output of a bus. SuperCollider synthesis server: Signal flow. and 2.5). a node that represents an oscillator function may contain slots for frequency. or by mapping the parameter slot to the output of a bus (figure 4. 117 .5. Writing values to a node’s parameter slots by 1. A node on the synthesis server may contain parameter slots. The values of a parameter slot may be set by sending messages to the node to which the slot belongs. phase and amplitude parameters.4. For example. sending a message. SLOTS MESSAGE BUS Figure 4.NODES SIGNALS SOUND Figure 4.
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. It’s possible. SuperCollider’s bussing architecture allows for the flexible routing of signals within the synthesis network. 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. or mapped to a parameter slot belonging to any other node (figure 4. This flexibility is exploited and extended in the 118 .A bus is a virtual placeholder for a signal.6. from which the signal could be rerouted as an audio signal input to any other node. BUS 1 1 2 BUS 2 Figure 4. to tap an output signal from any node in the synthesis network and route it to a bus. Signal routing between parallel synthesis networks using busses.6).
The mapping framework consists of a hierarchical library of such functions encapsulated within discrete software objects. the functional transformation of the signal takes place between the bus and the signal’s destination. As I noted in the previous section. The objects that perform these transformations comprise the mapping layer. Feely’s mapping framework. Feely is primarily concerned with providing a flexible and intuitive mechanism for routing signals between components of 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. Feely’s mapping framework. 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. any signal within the audio synthesis network may be routed to a bus. Mapping Framework The mapping framework that I have developed for Mr. and rerouted from that bus to any other point in the network. In Mr. This is an example of a “one-to-many (Wanderley 2001)” mapping model. That is. 119 . and for defining functional mappings between them.7). 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. The mapping layer allows for the flexibility to route the signal at a single bus to multiple destinations with multiple functional mappings (figure 4.extensions to the language that form the basis of Mr.
BUS 1 x BUS 2 y Figure 4. The mapping framework also allows for the “cross-coupling (Hunt. The software objects that perform these transformations comprise the mapping layer. and Paradis 2003)” of bus signals. These signals are routed to three different parameter slots. Wanderley. Each signal is subject to a functional transformation (those transformations denoted here as x.8). y and z) between the bus and their respective parameter slot destinations.7 The signal at a bus is split into three signals. The signals at two busses are subject to functional transformations (x and y).8. effecting a one-to-many mapping. The transformed signals are summed. or “many-to-one (Wanderley 2001)” mappings (figure 4.Mapping Layer x BUS y z Figure 4. or 120 .
where the output of one functional mapping may be mapped into a parameter slot in another (figure 4. where that argument is set at a parameter slot.” resulting in a mapping from multiple signal sources to a single parameter slot. Additionally. the mapping framework allows for what I have termed “functionparameter” mappings. For example. The output of function y is mapped to a parameter slot in an audio synthesis network component. the signal at BUS 2 is multiplied by the scaled signal at BUS 1.9 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. The output of the dependent function y is then mapped to a parameter slot in an audio synthesis network component. The signals at two busses are subject to functional transformations (x and y).“cross-coupled.9).10].9. BUS 1 x BUS 2 y Figure 4. Function y might multiply the output value of the signal at BUS 2 by the value of an argument. function x in figure 4.
they are nonetheless classified as having either local or global scope. Feely’s hardware controls. depending on the particular input device to which they are connected.simple example. but it makes clear the kinds of complex interdependencies between system components that “function-parameter” mappings allow. x ADC BUS y z Figure 4.10. and can be routed to any point in the synthesis network. All busses that are placeholders for signals routed from audio signals have global scope. however. The signal at the bus may be treated as though it were any other signal. and therefore have identical implementations. 122 . The map from hardware to software.10). Busses that are placeholders for signal arriving from Mr. In this scheme. Mr. are accorded either local or global scope. Analog signals are read by an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and written to a bus in the audio synthesis network. Feely’s hardware controls are connected to the audio synthesis network through busses (figure 4. the scope of a bus corresponds to the function of the input device as defined by the partitioning of Mr. Feely’s control surface into functional regions. While all busses in the audio synthesis system are instances of a single class of bus.
Busses L1. while Global Section controllers are connected to busses that have global scope (figure 4. Feely’s control panel.2 L2. The output of these audio synthesis channels is summed and sent to a global processing network. for example.2 L1.1-3 are connected to Channel Section controllers on Mr.3 GLOBAL G1 G2 Figure 4. 1 L1.1 L2.Channel Section controllers. 123 . Their scope is local.. they may only be routed to the corresponding audio synthesis network channels. i.1 L1.1-3 and L2. 1 and 2.11).11.e.3 2 L2. are connected to busses that have local scope within each of the five discrete audio synthesis network channels. Local and global scope of busses.
The “push-and-pull” of dynamical forces that is key to the instrument’s resistance. Consider a system. It was a deliberate design choice to accord busses this dual role. The scope of these busses is global.. then. The dynamical behavior of the system as a whole would. That is to say. where the outputs from 124 . however. Busses have a special status in the mapping framework. or to any of the discrete audio synthesis channels. The only difference.e. To this point. signals are treated as equivalent whether their origins are external or internal to the system. between the mapping scheme of figure 4. is encapsulated in the structure and behavior of a single integrated signal flow network. They are placeholders for signals that originate both outside and inside the audio synthesis network. for example. appear to be relatively flat. 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. Feely’s control panel. and therefore represent the points at which human action and internal mechanism coincide. i. nonetheless.Global busses G1 and G2 are connected to Global Section controllers on Mr. the simple mapping schemes I have illustrated have not demonstrated models of dynamical behavior.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. and this equivalency of signals implies that all signal flow networks are formed at the same level of structure.
after underdoing functional transformation. Discrete audio synthesis networks are coupled to form an interacting composite network. and then back to parameter slots within the discrete networks (figure 4. 125 . x and y. is used to regulate the internal behavior of channel 2. GLOBAL A1 A2 1 2 x y Figure 4. and vice versa. and the continuous outputs of those functions are routed to parameter slots in the discrete channels. These signals are transformed by functions.12). The output of channel 1.12.two discrete audio synthesis networks are routed to global busses. Global busses A1 and A2 serve as placeholders for the output signals of channels 1 and 2 .
Any of these choices would create the possibility for complex behavioral dependencies between the two synthesis networks. for example. rather than being summed (as in figure 4. They might.In this example.12. behavioral patterns are determined in part by signals that originate outside the network. then. map the audio signal unaltered into the parameter slot. however.e. and exhibits behavior. From the perspective of a human observer.12 as x and y. internal behavior is nonautonomous. indicated in figure 4. the composite network (comprised of the two interacting subnetworks) could be said to be autonomous. as it operates. where they had previously formed uncoupled autonomous systems. Summary From the perspective of either of the discrete networks in figure 4.e. The structure of the network—i. the possibility for nonlinear dynamical behaviors in the composite (coupled) system. These functions might encapsulate any number of behaviors. could be used to regulate one another’s behavior. The way in which the bussed signals act as regulatory mechanisms in the respective synthesis networks is defined by the mapping functions. The output signals from the two channels.11). without human intervention. its topology—creates a coupling between the two discrete audio synthesis networks.. the output of channel 1 is routed back to a parameter slot in channel 2. and at the same time. and so on.. scale it to an effective range and map the resulting signal to the slot. they now form coupled nonautonomous systems. scale the audio signal to an effective range. i. This presents an interesting design 126 . track the signal’s frequency or amplitude characteristics. and vice versa.
problem: we want the instrument to have rich. So.e. And these interdependencies are key to the “push-and-pull” dynamics that define the instrument’s kinds of resistance. however.. In summary. although we could engineer a system that exhibits dynamical behavior without human involvement. This does not rule out the kind of model encapsulated in figure 4. the mapping framework allows for the creation of complex interdependencies between system components. this model forms the basis of the first usage example I will outline in the next section. It does. then. I’ll take up this issue by outlining two specific usage examples. the kind of system that is more compelling with a view to enactive performance practice would be one that. 127 .12. i. such that when there is a “push-and-pull” of physical forces at the hardware layer. but at the same time. But the question remains as to how one might go about calibrating the system in such a way that it requires human action. call for calibration of the system—a “tuning” of the system’s dynamical responsiveness—when human action enters the equation. In fact. embodies the potential for dynamical behavior when coupled to a human performer. we want those dynamics to emerge in the coupling of the instrument to a human performer. structured dynamics. the instrument responds and resists with proportionately rich and varied sonic behavior. rather than exhibiting autonomous dynamical behavior.
128 .12. however. As in figure 4.4.1. the output of channel 1 is mapped via a global bus to a parameter slot in channel 2. because they point to different kinds of resistance.13 departs from that of figure 4. more specifically. then.12. Example 1: Pushing the envelope Figure 4. and vice versa. The example in figure 4. because their differences illustrate the ways in which diverse implementations might highlight distinct facets of a single basic concern: enactive performance practice.1 and L2. The two usage examples are interesting.12. I have chosen these specific examples because of their differences. 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. the first model is in an early stage of development. to different modes of embodied activity. Feely in use. Or. L1. and to different realizational potentialities.4 Mr. while the second is relatively mature. Feely: Usage Examples Overview In this section I outline two examples of Mr. through the addition of two local busses.13 illustrates an extension of the interacting composite network of figure 4. At the present writing.
1 and L2.1 A1 A2 a x b y Figure 4. or argument.. Functional covariance. these busses are mapped to parameter slots of mapping functions that are internal to the system.GLOBAL 1 L1. The local busses L1.13. i. This is an instance of “functionparameter” mapping.1 2 L2.1 provide the effective point of access to the system for human action. they 129 . Feely’s Channel Section. where the output of function a serves as a continuous input. Local busses L1. Rather than being mapped to parameter slots in the nodes that comprise the synthesis network. to function x.1 and L2. and the output of function b serves as a continuous input to function y. These signals are mapped to parameter slots of mapping functions internal to the composite audio synthesis network.e.1 are placeholders for signals from Mr.
but in all instances map into continuous ranges as suitable to the synthesis parameter in question.” The mappings illustrated in figure 4.13—are key to the dynamical responsiveness of this particular network. 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.13 represent just a partial view of the entire system. corresponding to the five channels of three knobs that comprise Mr. Feely’s Channel Section. Feely that goes under the working title “pushing the envelope. In the “pushing the envelope” model. It’s their role that I will focus on here. This network of mappings forms the basis of a performance scenario I’ve developed for Mr. These mappings vary across different implementations of the basic system. then.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 . is largely determined by the functional mapping from the local busses to the parameter nodes of the global busses.represent “function-parameter” mappings.xn) 130 . the functions x and y (figure 4. The functional mappings from the local busses L1.1 and L2. The two busses per channel that are not shown in figure 4. and is covariant with human action.13 are mapped to various parameter nodes in the respective discrete audio synthesis networks.1—the busses that are shown in figure 4.
As the outputs of a and b are effectively plugged into µ. which results in the system as a whole having response 131 . and is entirely unstable when µ is greater than 3. already embody the potential for complex dynamical behavior. the response of which becomes increasingly chaotic when the value of µ is greater than 3.87. The amplitude of this function’s output will vary proportionately with the rate of performer activity at the hardware controls—i. It represents a simple nonlinear system. effecting a coupling between the two channels.The outputs of x and y are connected as level controls at the output stage of channels 1 and 2 respectively. that the more “active” the activity. The logistic mapping function is interesting because the trajectory of its orbit varies with different values of the variable µ.87 (assuming values of x in the range [-1. the corresponding knobs in Mr. The effective ranges of a and b are scaled to a dynamically rich range in µ (between 2.e.9 and 3. the dynamical contour of the outputs of x and y are directly proportional to the rate of performer activity.1 and L1. 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.13 represent the slope (rate of change) of the signals at busses L1.2 respectively. This means. the greater the amplitude of the resulting signal. The parameter slots in the mapping functions x and y (figure 4. a range that encompasses the discontinuous transition from flat to chaotic dynamics through successive period doublings). then. The functions a and b in figure 4. Feely’s Channel Section— that are connected to the bus.13) represent the variable µ in the logistic mapping function. 1]). The mapping functions x and y. essentially. This creates for a potentially very interesting mapping.
i. For example.14.characteristics that vary dynamically with the “push-and-pull” of human motor actions.14) will result in a proportionate increase in the “degree of chaos” in the outputs of functions x and y. Thirdly. Firstly.. the system doesn’t just require the performer. the system requires considerable physical effort on the part of the performer to elicit dynamically rich responses from the software system. without performer action. Left-right knob manipulation with respect to time. TIME Figure 4. 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. Secondly. To that extent. the response of the system is dynamically flat. it requires a considerable investment of performative energy. In practice.e. the behavior of the system as a whole is far from 132 . the “pushing the envelope” model has certain interesting implications for performance. an increase in the rate of left-right knob “twiddling” with respect to time (figure 4.
transparent at first use. as encapsulated in the functional mappings from outputs in one channel to parameter nodes in another. at the same time that they continue to be more closely aligned to certain expectations. That is to say. 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. 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. Nonetheless. In my experience thus far with this system. and in fact demands significant experimentation before certain consistent patterns and responses begin to reveal themselves. Example 2: Surfing the fractal wave (at the end of history) In certain respects. 133 . I’ve found that it’s not possible to get an overall conceptual grasp on its range of behavior. and particularly on the way that dynamical changes propagate through the composite network. also continue to yield new and often surprising dynamical contours. certain recurrent patterns of motor activity have begun to emerge. there are parallels in the dynamics of the “pushing the envelope” network to the dynamics of many conventional acoustic instruments. The complexity of the system’s dynamical responsiveness is effectively guaranteed by the interdependencies of the five discrete audio synthesis networks. and these patterns are yielding varieties of sonic responsiveness that.
Where performance with conventional acoustic instruments ordinarily requires a “pushing” of kinetic energy into the instrumental mechanism in order to set things in motion. Patterns of motor activity in “surfing the fractal wave” are designed around the asymmetry of “handedness” (Guiard 1987).When there is no input of human energy. then. 134 .org/LOGOS/tm970423.html). however. the instrument’s response is “flat.. then. has very little to do with McKenna's original intention. dominant and non-dominant 3 The name is borrowed from the title of a 1997 Terence McKenna lecture (http://www. My appropriation. an “absorbed coping” that is about the timely navigation of energy flows in the environment. i.abrupt. in the “surfing the fractal wave” model. Hence the distinction between “surfing” and “pushing” analogies.e.” And when human energy is transmitted to the system. the system’s dynamical responsiveness is proportionate to the amplitude of that energy. rather than the directed transmission of energy flows that originate in the body. There is. things are already in motion in the instrumental mechanism. for example. 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. The mode of performance. is more concerned with giving dynamical shape and contour to these motions. 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.
For example the left hand brings the painter’s palette in and out of range. then the right starts to write with the pen. 2. the left hand grips the paper. The granularity of action of the left hand is coarser than that of the right. in hammering a nail. (Kabbash. but they cooperate in the accomplishment of the larger task that those sub-tasks comprise. Buxton and Sellen describe three characteristic ways in which the two hands are asymmetrically dependent in select everyday tasks: 1. 3.15 represents a partial view of the “surfing the fractal wave” network model.hands are afforded independent sub-tasks. Figure 4. For example. 135 . a tendency that is self-reinforcing across a wide range of activities and over repeated performances. while the right hand holds the brush and does the fine strokes onto the canvas. The left hand sets the frame of reference for action of the right. and Sellen 1994:418) Each of these examples could be viewed as aspects of a single embodied tendency. Kabbash et al. The sequence of motion is left then right. the left hand holds the nail while the right does the hammering. Buxton. advocate the design of humancomputer interfaces that exploit the habitual ways in which humans tend to use their hands in skillful activity. Kabbash. For example. The “surfing the fractal wave” model heads in this direction.
JSY) are mapped to parameter slots of a chaotic sequencer function (SEQ). 136 . Some feedback networks.3 Audio Network 2 C2.2 C1. These controls “filter” the results of the mapping from the sequencer stream to each of the discrete audio synthesis networks. Knob manipulations are in most instances performed by the right hand.1 C2. mapping functions and audio synthesis network schemata have been omitted for clarity.1-3) read signals from the knobs in Mr.1 C1. Local busses (C1. Joystick manipulations are always performed by the left hand. only two are shown). The x and y outputs of a joystick with global scope (JSX.2 C2. The sequencer sends a stream of timed triggers to parameters in each of five discrete audio synthesis networks (for clarity.15.3 Audio Network Figure 4.LH GLOBAL JSX a SEQ JSY b RH 1 C1.1-3 and C2. “Surfing the fractal wave” network model. Feely’s Channel Section.
the pads of the left hand fingers tend to “ride” the joystick. 137 . at a medium tempo.16). In performance. In practice this means that when the joystick is in its centre position (the resting position for a “spring-back” style joystick).16. respectively) into the output of a chaotic sequencer (SEQ). with a regular and stable amplitude pattern (figure 4. Time Figure 4. The designation can be taken to be qualitative. 4 The "chaotic" sequencer function is not technically chaotic (in mathematical terms). the sequencer clock outputs a steady stream of pulses.The diagram divides the network space into left hand and right hand regions. Sequencer pulse stream when the joystick is in centre (“resting”) position. 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.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.
An increase in the signal at JSX. The parameter slot to which the mapping function b is connected represents a chaotic variable in the sequencer function. the degree of pulse “nestedness.” and 2.The mapping functions a and b determine. Time R JSX L SEQ Figure 4. An increase in the value of both of these parameters (corresponding to a bottom-to138 . Sequencer pulse stream when there is a left-to-right movement across the joystick’s x axis. The parameter slot to which a is mapped represents a multiplication argument for the sequencer’s clock frequency and base amplitude. In short. however.17. this single variable determines two aspects of the sequencer’s behavior: 1. 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. that deviations in the x and y axes of the joystick result in more complex behaviors in the pulse stream. the probability that successive values read from an internal finite state machine are mapped to the amplitude of the pulse stream.17).
Time R JSX L T JSY B SEQ Figure 4. 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).top movement in the joystick’s y axis) results in an increase in the system’s entropy. Sequencer pulse stream when there is a 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. and a bottom-to-top movement across the y axis.17. The increase in the signal at JSY results in a greater 139 . 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).18.18 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. Figure 4.
And it’s in these motions that a “feel” develops for the sequencer’s stable and chaotic regions.18 would suggest. there can be no complete picture without considering how these sub-tasks coordinate and cooperate. but there are certain 140 . But these motor patterns constitute only one part of the coordinated left hand/right hand movements that amount to “surfing the fractal wave. 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. Rather. and for the shift from greater-to-lesser and lesser-to-greater degrees of event density with respect to time. and between the kinds of responses that right hand actions might elicit from each of the networks. and a greater likelihood of irregularities in amplitude patterns. the transitions between then. The perceptual guiding of left-hand actions in “surfing the fractal wave” is more integrated than figure 4. Each of the five synthesis networks implements a resonator function.18 would indicate). While each of these networks encapsulates different dynamical responses.” And while it’s useful to break the activity down into left and right hand sub-tasks. The output of the chaotic sequencer is mapped to parameters in each of the five discrete audio synthesis networks. These resonators embody different resonance models (with different dynamical responses). where the pulses that are mapped into each of network serve as excitors. there are strong symmetries between their behaviors. the performer guides the left-hand through singular trajectories across a two-dimensional space.likelihood of “nestedness” in the pulse stream.
1 C2.1 C1.2 C1. and “Resonance” corresponds to busses C1-5.5 Figure 4. High level “percepts” are symmetrical across each of the five channels.” “Resonance”) are assigned to corresponding busses across each channel. where each of those percepts corresponds to the same bus number assignment in each channel.4.2.” “Width. “Width” corresponds to busses C1-5.perceptual constants from one network to the next.19 shows the mapping from local busses to two of the five discrete audio synthesis channels. Percepts (“Gate. This has the 141 . That is. Perceptual symmetries in the functional mapping from busses to the audio networks across distinct channels. 1 Pulse Stream GATE WIDTH RESONANCE 2 C1. “Gate” corresponds to busses C1-5.3 Audio Network C2.19.2 C2. where rows of knobs in Mr. Figure 4. Feely’s Channel Section correspond to rows of busses in the diagram.1.3.3 Audio Network 3. The symmetry holds at the level of hardware.
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. i.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. a tighter “elasticity” (implemented as a shorter impulse response in the delay lines in the resonator’s filterbank) will result in shorter output events. It is tied in specifically to parameter nodes in the resonator that change the resonator’s dynamical responsiveness. and the ways in which the filters that 142 . the resonant frequencies. Of course. where no pulses are passed to the resonator system when the gate’s value is zero. i.e. The implementation of the “Width” mechanism varies slightly from one channel to the next. all pulses are passed when the gate’s value is one.effect of similar classes of response being elicited from corresponding knobs in each of the five channels of Mr. It acts. Feely’s Control Section. but its effect is symmetrical: turning the corresponding knob from left to right has the effect of “loosening the elasticity” of each resonator. as an event filter on the pulse stream. The “Resonance” mechanism is the most varied in terms of implementation across the five channels. and each pulse in the stream has a 0.5 probability of passing when the gate’s value is 0. 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. their bandwidths.5.. then.
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. Across all five channels. It’s worth addressing each point in turn: 1. The pulse stream. The sequence of motion is left then right. then the right starts to write with the pen”). self-oscillation and nonlinear behavior. left hand movements give contour to the dynamical unfolding of the pulse stream. 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. The left hand sets the frame of reference for action of the right. 2.’s corresponding example (“the left hand grips the paper.comprise the resonator’s internal filterbank interact. while the right hand acts as an event filter on the stream. as it unfolds. and a modifier of the dynamical properties of the events that emerge from pulses hitting the resonator functions. But unlike Kabbash et al.” there is a correspondence to each of the three characteristic behaviors of bimanual asymmetric action that Kabbash et al. is the frame of reference for the “picking” and “shaping” of discrete events that characterizes right hand actions. 143 . In the “surfing the fractal wave” model. point out. turning the “Resonance” knob from left to right tends to shift the dynamical response of the resonator increasingly towards distortion. In the breakdown of right hand and left hand tasks in “surfing the fractal wave.
These joystick manipulations do not require the hand to reposition itself across discrete points on the control surface. but it seems that my experience of this phenomenon with “surfing the fractal wave” might also apply to other activities. I’ve found that in playing with the model. The granularity of action of the left hand is coarser than that of the right. left hand activities do not seem to require any conscious attention. 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. while the right hand holds the brush and does the fine strokes onto the canvas. Feely’s Channel Section. It’s interesting to note that in the act of playing. and the engineering of the interface around habitual 144 . my left hand will often span the distance from the joystick to the top row of knobs in Mr. such as Kabbash et al. leaving the little finger to move the joystick through the two dimensional plane while the thumb and pointer finger turn the knobs. while the right hand activities demand on-going and focused attention. But even this action is of a coarser granularity than the actions designated to the right hand. and finely detailed turnings and twiddlings of those knobs. and they do not require grasping.” The two key aspects to the model of activity in “surfing the fractal wave” are the “surfing” aspect. turning. or other finger motions that are performed at a fine granularity of scale. actions that involve a constant “hopping” between the fifteen knobs that comprise the Channel Section.3.’s corresponding example: “the left hand brings the painter’s palette in and out of range. In “surfing the fractal wave” the left hand is designated to control the joystick. discuss.
then. where activity takes place across a network of interacting components. and in the elaboration of larger scale events. the entangling of these aspects in the midst of performance—that give the model its idiosyncratic kind of resistance. over the period of time that I’ve worked with this model. but in the coordination of the hands with respect to timing constraints. This seems to me indicative of the coevolution of sensory. in which events are initiated when the performer transmits kinetic energy to the instrumental mechanism. This is at odds with the enactive model of interaction. Summary The conventional metaphors of computer science tend to regard computation as an inherently sequential process. emerge not only in the interdependencies between the two hands.” It’s these aspects—or. 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. the “surfing the fractal wave” model is built around a persistent stream of events. more specifically. Motor patterns. and 145 . It’s been interesting to note that. In contrast to the “pushing the envelope” model. and as my hands have become both better coordinated and more individually dexterous. such as phrases and gestures. That is. And these events can go by very fast. I’ve had a better capacity to deal with the system’s unfolding in a timely manner. where the desired outcome of the function is known in advance of its execution. and where the behavior of those components.embodied patterns of “handedness. as a function from input to output comprised of a series of discrete and causally related steps. motor and cognitive competencies that is definitive of enaction.
to a kind of physical model. i. a given property of the system. and to that extent it also allows for a structural coupling of performer and instrument. The examples I’ve outlined in this section point.” This model of “computation-as-interaction” underlies the design of Mr. the kinds of resistance that the instrument affords to the human remains a matter of how the infrastructure is utilized. the focus of my work is directed more towards the development of instrumental behaviors that are indigenous to computing media. however. in that they embody networks of dynamical 146 . And the “right” kinds of resistances—at least with a view to structural coupling.therefore of the network as a whole. a matter of design. The system allows for human action to be folded into the dynamical processes of interacting network components. Structural coupling is not. realization and enaction—will be those that are neither so transparent to human action that they demand little thought or effort.. or so ungraspable that they forever remain beyond motor and cognitive capability. will depend on a fundamentally different view of computation to that of conventional computer science. 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). An enactive digital musical instrument. I suggested in chapter 2 that while there is much to be learned from the physical modeling of conventional acoustic instruments. then. Feely’s software system. however. Rather than falling back on the “computation-as-calculation” model. while the software system provides the required technical infrastructure. is adaptive and emergent with respect to the ongoing push-and-pull of interactional dynamics.e.
and new ways of encountering the instrument.. I’ve found that the “right” kinds of resistances. between that which is familiar and that which is other to every day phenomenal experience. 147 .. the focus of development is shifted to the mapping framework. this means that the simulated physics of resistance will be—in some way or other—functionally related to physical descriptions of real world behavior. over a sustained period of time. The design of these systems. then the kinds of resistance that the systems afford will be sufficiently rich in dynamical potential that. continue to be those that are resonant with phenomenal experience and past practices of embodiment. If the balance between these two poles is apposite. the virtual physics of these systems is speculative. Essentially. however. or on differential equations that describe well known physical systems. then. I’m suggesting that it’s through this shift that we see the potential arise for what I have called an “indigenous” computer music. design choices as to “kinds of resistance”—i. leaving the designer free to experiment with any manner of sound-producing and processing components. they are evolved interactively through experimentation with various mapping and calibration schemes.e. the performer will continue to realize new practices. classes of behavior—are effectively decoupled from audio synthesis implementations. i. while the components of the audio synthesis network certainly continue to play a critical role in the instrument’s behavior. Rather. But in contrast to physical models of conventional instruments. So. the models are not based on data from real world measurements.dependencies in which human action is resisted by forces that are immanent to the software network.e. takes a middle course between normative and speculative modes of interactivity. In the approach I’ve taken.
It also seems that at a certain point. At first glance. it seems I’m still just scratching at the surface of these matters. Feely. rather. At this point in my work. This would be a kind of meta-design.4. 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. 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.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. 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. that are of a higher order than those I’ve outlined to this point. For design. there would exist an evolving metric for balancing the constraints of one against the other in an integrated framework. these “uncoverings” will necessarily require the development of patterns. and that there are a great many implementational possibilities yet to be uncovered. in both design and performance. I can’t say for certain how one would go about putting 148 . 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. In my work with Mr. Rather than persistently hopping back and forth between philosophical and technical discourses. The concern. as both designer and performer.
it may also lead to a heightened sense of flow—of performative embodiment. And while the two usage examples I outlined in the previous section might involve a certain degree of multitasking in and of themselves. the two usage examples I’ve outlined in this chapter embody very different kinds of resistance.such a framework together. and therefore afford very different varieties of human action. it may prove useful to have in store some metric of actional distance between the kinds of 5 For example. 149 . there is a higher order of multitasking that could potentially encompass both models simultaneously. In designing for multitasking. then. But problems such as these are not without precedent in the history of design. This kind of multitasking is part and parcel of expert musicianship. At the same time that this may eventually lead to more complex and diverse sonic utterances. the issue comes back to design. It’s interesting to consider. Multitasking must necessarily involve some degree of compatibility between the actional patterns that comprise the sub-tasks. though. In considering the merging of the two models into a single integrated model. Again. how these models might be interleaved in the context of the same performance. The development of higher order patterns in performance is also a matter of balancing opposing constraints. it would seem that they are in fact so different in playing technique as to be incompatible. see Alexander ( 1997).5 and it seems to me a potentially very productive avenue of investigation. As I’ve been careful to make clear.
is simply folded into the enactive model of interaction. But again. It's also interesting to note that. There is a stochastic element in enactive process. It’s been interesting for me to note that. the more I play with the “surfing the fractal wave” model. not just because they can be assimilated into the accumulating motor and sonic vocabulary. 150 . at least to this point. 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.6 With or without these higher order design methods. then. the products of design will invariably afford opportunities for action that were at no point factored into the design process.7 These kinds of discoveries constitute an important aspect of the learning process. 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. see Wild. The balancing of these constraints may prove to be difficult. the "pushing the envelope" 7 model has yielded no such interesting anomalies. The glitch. such approaches are not without precedent in design. Its appearance or suppression in performance becomes a 6 For example. Johnson and Johnson (2004).motor activities that different models afford. 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.
151 .matter for human intentionality. Either choice will lead to the appropriate refinement of actional dispositions.
or a development of form.5 Groundlessness Whatever comes into being dependent on another Is not identical to that thing. — Gilles Deleuze. not as a form. Therefore it is neither nonexistent in time nor permanent. — Nagarjuna. Nor is it different from it. but as a complex relation between differential velocities. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy The main thing is that you forget yourself. between deceleration and acceleration of particles. each living individuality. Mūlamadhyamakakārikā XVIII:10 The important thing is to understand life. — Barbara McClintock 152 .
“Humans use technologies.” that enactive theory necessarily implies a “groundless” or “selfless” self—i.. a process that is not concerned with subjects and objects. 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. and perception is geared towards abstract contemplation of the objectness of things in the world. and the dynamic momentum of the emergent system that arises in the relations and linkages between heterogeneous elements. and Rosch 1991:116). Thompson.e. but with relations.” a “subjectless subjectivity (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). heterogeneity.” “technologies determine humans. 153 . Rosch and Thompson’s outline of an enactive cognitive science is the model of subjectivity that necessarily follows from enactive process. These are. and my writing in this essay has not been immune to the lopsided characterizations of interaction that such products embody. 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.The structure of our language typically leads us to characterizations of interaction that focus on one side or the other of the interactional loop. linkages. the unavoidable products of a subject/object syntax.” and so on. a self with “no permanent substance. 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. of course. But despite the inevitable linguistic constraints.” This is the non-self that appears in the experience of flow—in an unselfconscious.
computers have a significant potential. and which at the same time would serve as the measure of the instrument’s resistance. and that the epistemological and ontological qualities that it embodies necessarily imply an ethics. An enactive approach to digital musical instrument design would necessarily account for the realizational potential of the instrument. While the statement is obviously true. But to my mind (however that may now be defined). I think. is directed towards designing an encounter. It would be easy enough to arrive at the conclusion that. The concern for design. then. it is not. a potential which would lead to an incremental unfolding of relationality. I have not dealt with the epistemological or ontological implications of an enactive approach to design in any significant manner. If an implementation might afford the potential to undermine essentialist ways of being—i.” In Heidegger’s terminology. we are designing something-in-order-to-perform-music.e. At various points throughout the essay. 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.e. In this respect.. 154 . a conclusion. in designing a digital musical instrument. or when implementing implementations.. it affords a particular utility. That is. Or. it’s directed towards designing something-in-order-to-not-besome-thing. an equipment is a tool that presents itself to human perception and intentionality as something-in-order-to. it’s precisely these implications that are most critical when thinking about design.In this essay. I’ve invoked Heidegger’s use of the term “equipment. i.
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