From this week’s reading, I am responding to Principle 2.7 from Artful Design, Chapter 2. Principle 2.7 states “Design to Lower Inhibition”, whereby design should encourage certain behaviors that are beneficial to us. The Auto-Tune app example is a testimony to wonderful ways a tool/toy lowers inhibition to help facilitate creativity, though perhaps one thing missing from this assessment is the technological innovation which creates a more ubiquitous experience by ease of access compared to the actual Auto-Tune software. Using this technology is no longer a mental block, and the clearance of mental blocks is always something to be celebrated.
I’d like to connect this idea with my own personal experience with another app called Voloco. My partner Benjamin moved abroad at the end of 2020 and we have somehow maintained a strong relationship built on good communication and deliberately planning adventures. I am grateful for the technology we have today to help facilitate this. Benjamin is a very silly and playful human, I am also silly and playful but his silliness is on a special level. One day while looking for inspiration for my final project for Audio Signal Processing I came across Voloco’s vocoder preset that allows the user to sound like Bon Iver. There was one thing in particular which I found value from this: it was very accessible to non-musicians because no matter what the user would say it sounded good, much like the Auto-Tune. Benjamin likes to tell me a lot of stories about his adventures abroad or about his day and often leaves me voice notes–so I had an idea. What if I recorded a pretty mundane story about my day using this vocoder and sent it to him? The result was hilarious: it was a piece with pitch flourishes which gave it a sense of a plot-driven narrative while containing absolutely anti-climatic content in the nonmusical parts. For me the impact here was not that the app lowered inhibition–we often sing silly things to each other like lullaby versions of Sisqo’s Thong Song–it was that it was a tool for me to be playful and silly.
Although I could use Voloco as a tool, after years of studying music and working as a DJ and traumas that came with that, I realized my relationship with music changed. The wonder I used to have for music and the fire had become a small flame, and I have been desperately trying to throw in more wood. I needed an additional/different angle to engage with it. I started doing more silly things with the vocoder, like when my sister was sad one morning I recorded a song I made up using Voloco to send to her. It was so easy to do it on my phone, and I just wanted to cheer her up. For a moment I get to turn off my musician brain and use these tools to engage with other people in my own ways. This is a meaningful example for me in how music technology allows you to put different intentions on how you use it–because it lowers inhibition or has ease of access, it allows connection with people in ways you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.
Response: The Idyllic Video Game Sublime
From what I see in this game in the video, the scenes and interactivity indeed exhibit a tranquility that I wouldn’t expect from the game title that I find very impactful. I don’t play video games myself but do respect many things about well-designed video games, especially in how the world is built, the narrative, and the music that together create a cohesive space. Another game I think executes this tranquility well despite its premise is Stray, where the player is a cat in a futuristic dystopian world. I love cats and would totally play that game because cat’s movements are beautifully modeled in this cat avatar and robots are nice.