Risky business: Disfluency as a design strategy

Bin, S. M. Astrid and Bryan-Kinns, Nick and McPherson, Andrew P.

Proceedings of the International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression

This paper presents a study examining the effects of disfluent design on audience perception of digital musical instrument (DMI) performance. Disfluency, defined as a barrier to effortless cognitive processing, has been shown to generate better results in some contexts as it engages higher levels of cognition. We were motivated to determine if disfluent design in a DMI would result in a risk state that audiences would be able to perceive, and if this would have any effect on their evaluation of the performance. A DMI was produced that incorporated a disfluent characteristic: It would turn itself off if not constantly moved. Six physically identical instruments were produced, each in one of three versions: Control (no disfluent characteristics), mild disfluency (turned itself off slowly), and heightened disfluency (turned itself off more quickly). 6 percussionists each performed on one instrument for a live audience (N=31), and data was collected in the form of real-time feedback (via a mobile phone app), and post-hoc surveys. Though there was little difference in ratings of enjoyment between the versions of the instrument, the real-time and qualitative data suggest that disfluent behaviour in a DMI may be a way for audiences to perceive and appreciate performer skill.