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designing Interactive Music Performances with Children 


This research won a best paper award at the International Conference

on Digital Narratives (ICIDS) in 2019. Full text here.

Through cooperative inquiry (CI) with Kidsteam, a co-design group at the University of Maryland, I investigated how audiences might want to interact with live music performances, including design considerations and opportunities.  Findings from these sessions also formed a Spectrum of Audience Interactivity in live musical performances, outlining ways to encourage interactivity in music performances from the child perspective.

SESSION 1: Interactions with a Pianist

To provide initial scope, in this session the team was asked to consider a performance that included a single performer and instrument: How can an audience change what is being played during a piano performance? Small groups used a 3D prototyping technique called Bags of Stuff to build low fidelity prototypes of technologies that would interact with a live piano performance using art supplies.  


SESSION 2: Interactions with Any Performer

As with the previous session, the design team was asked to envision ways an audience could interact with a performance as it is happening. However, in this design session no constraints were placed on the type of performance being attended. This session used the Big Props technique (Walsh, 2013) which incorporates large stage props (in this case, toy guitars, harps, etc.) in addition to art supplies to develop prototypes that focus on interactions. 


SESSION 3: Degrees of Interactivity

In design sessions 1 and 2 observed that the design teams proposed a range of individual to group and passive to active interactions with performers. Inspired by these findings, the third design session began by asking small groups to review their designs to develop a spectrum of audience participation. 


This co-design work led to several themes on tangible experiences, personal and group preferences, multimodal interactions, multisensory and 4D experiences, and rules for democratisation and fairness. See the CHI '17 publication for details. 

A Spectrum of Audience Interactivity

Findings from sessions informed the creation of a Spectrum of Audience Interactivity in musical performances.  After an initial spectrum was created during the cooperative inquiry research, I conducted an in-depth literature review across theater, theme parks, and games to validate the spectrum across theater, theme park, and game domains. The spectrum can be used by researchers and designers to design and describe interactive audience experiences across different types of transmedia. 

The theoretical spectrum consists of 8 levels, and describes audience participation at a high-level, from more passive to more active. A full description of the Spectrum is available here.

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