Reading Response #5 to Artful Design • Chapter 5: Interface Design “”

Aaron H.
Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

I really resonated with Principle 5.17: Embody from this chapter. From my experience, working towards becoming one with an interface where it feels second nature allows you to freely express yourself. Whether it’s through video games, drawing, dancing, or playing an instrument, practicing is a journey towards embodying an art. Technique, scales, new items, repertoire, and personal projects culminate into learned skills that can later be used in future creations. This relates to another principle discussed in artful design that touches on the subject of “play” when it comes to an instrument. In order to play an instrument well, it takes time to immerse yourself in learning so that playing comes naturally. This framing of play is ironic in some ways, considering the dichotomy between play and work where play is considered more leisure. However, interestingly putting in work to get better at a craft is integral to achieving play. This is a concept I struggle with constantly, especially when it comes to the balance between working and playing to feel fully in touch with your craft. There are times where playing even when you’re not ready could help you evolve towards comfortability with your interface. Being comfortable being uncomfortable can be important to play and not second guessing yourself because you haven’t developed all the skills yet. I also agree fully that mapping can sometimes have too much weight when it comes to designing a musical interface. I would challenge us to even find ways where we would break expectations of gestures or configurations and see if we can find meaning out of them. For example, if we map loudness to smaller gestures or low frequency pitches to very small objects, how does this change our association to these objects? If we use techniques that skew our perception and don’t necessarily make intuitive sense, is there a benefit to this experience? Does that stretch how we think about things?

Additionally, I find myself grappling with James Landay’s comment quite often, especially with my research. Creating or studying “isolated interactions” scientifically are easier to reproduce and in general study for analysis. Controls are important for considering confounding variables and understanding how one independent variable affects a system. However, many of these paradigms do not represent what an experience would be like in real life. Real scenarios typically have too many variables to keep track of simultaneously and are not easy to reproduce. As a result, it does call into question the effectiveness of certain scientific studies that are too far removed from an actual situation. I think in the future it will be more pressing to create experimental design that are better representations of the real world.