Graphical Performance Software in Contexts: Explorations with Different Strokes



John Sullivan

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Mark Zadel

Publication or Conference Title:

Ph.D. Thesis, McGill University


This thesis proposes a novel approach to musical software analysis that prescribes testing a given software interface in a wide variety of hardware contexts, each providing unique insights into its design. This work is situated in the general context of graphical software performance, which we define as musical performance through manipulating an on-screen software interface to create music. The analysis strategy is investigated using the Different Strokes (DS) performance environment as a specific example. A series of software extensions to DS were undertaken to extend the application to new hardware contexts and use cases. These include extensions for the use of Different Strokes in an interdisciplinary performance work, d_verse; the adaptation of DS to work on a large multi-touch surface; the integration of a force-feedback input device; and the integration of the libmapper framework, allowing it to be easily interconnected with alternative input and output devices.

The thesis also presents a historical overview of graphical software intended for live use, and a background on general issues in interface design for this usage context. An exploratory user test was performed with the force-feedback setup where participants used DS in the presence of simulated physical forces. While there was no clear preference for any of the haptic effects, the different physical forces present are demonstrated to have gestural implications. These kinds of implications should be taken into account when designing mappings from gesture to sound, and in the overall interaction design.

Publication Details:

Ph.D. Dissertation
Montreal, Canada

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