PhD Candidate, Northwestern University
Access and Creative Music Making: Design Tensions in Developing Tablet-Based Digital Musical Instruments for Students with Disabilities
One significant barrier to creative music making and learning for individuals with disabilities is the physical limitations of existing musical instruments. Tablet-based digital musical instruments (TDMI) offer these individuals an opportunity for increased musical engagement because they capitalize on the many affordances of touch-screen devices including durability, portability, and familiarity. Designing TDMI has become increasingly possible by not only highly trained computer scientists, but by musicians and educators as well (Manzo, 2011). Despite this, there is little empirical research in music education on the design of digital musical instruments and it is unknown which musical and pedagogical factors impact the design process.
The purpose of this case study is to describe the tensions that arose when designing TDMIs for individuals with disabilities and how the design decisions were influenced by the students and music teacher involved. This ongoing project is situated in a self-contained school for individuals with disabilities and aims to use technology to increase access to creative music making and learning for these individuals. Data for this study included designer fieldnotes (Emerson, Fretz & Shaw, 2011) and reflective journals (Ortlipp, 2008), debriefing sessions with the music teacher, semi-structured interviews with co-designers (Spradley, 1979), and nine versions of the TDMIs. Due to the factors that influence this project, Tatar’s design tensions framework (2007) was used as a lens for data analysis because it emphasizes examining decisions from multiple perspectives. Findings explore key musical, pedagogical, and technological decisions made with respect to the TDMI designs, the impacts on how to teach and learn with TDMI, as well as implications for future research in music technology pedagogy.
Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I., & Shaw L. L. (2011). Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Long Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Manzo, V. J. (2011). Max/MSP/Jitter for Music. New York: Oxford.
Ortlipp, M. (2008). Keeping and using reflective journals in the qualitative research process. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 13. retrieved from https://nsuworks.nova.edu/tqr/vol13/iss4/8
Spradley, J. P. (1979). The Ethnographic Interview. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Tatar, D. (2007). The design tensions framework. Human-Computer Interaction, 22(4), 413–451.
Patrick Horton is currently a PhD student in music education at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in music education from Ball State University. Previously, Patrick spent 11 years teaching middle school and high school instrumental music and music technology in Ohio and Indiana. Currently, his scholarly interests include world music pedagogy, technology, and creativity in the music classroom. Patrick is an active clinician and teaches summer courses at NU for middle school students interested in music technology.