Technical Parameters

I have been thinking a lot about GUIs, namespaces and control parameters over the last couple of days. One of the big challenges we are facing is how to make technology more human-friendly. Often it seems that technology controls us more than we control the technology.

Creating a user interface of any kind is very similar how we think about mapping in musical instruments. In essence, any type of control is one, or several, layers of mapping between one set of parameters to another. The problem is that the we tend to create interfaces with one-to-one mappings to the algorithms. This makes the GUI directly in control of the technical parameters, but it might be totally irrelevant from a perceptual point of view.

A good example of this can be found in some of the Jamoma modules I have made for the Musical Gestures Toolbox. There I have implemented the possibility to control two of the values by just mouse-clicking and dragging in the small video window in the module. Of course, there is also the possibility to actually change the values directly in the number boxes. What I have found is that I never use the number boxes to control these features, I always just drag in the window instead. I find this so much more intuitive. The question is whether the numbers have to be there at all, couldn’t they just be hidden somewhere inside for the computer to use?


If we want to make technology for people, we need to start thinking from the perspective of the person and not the computer. Less is more…

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.