Interactive Digital Electronics Workshop @ East Carolina University | April 19th, 2018 | Greenville, NC

What is Digital Interactivity?

Unfixed Media Flow Chart (One View of Interactivity)

Unfixed Media Flow Chart (One View of Interactivity)


    • A device that picks up signal from the real world which may then be turned into digital data via Analog-to-Digital Conversion

    • Examples: Microphones, Video Cameras, Control Surfaces, Motion-Tracking Systems


    • A process of preparing raw, recently digitized physical input in order to map it

    • Examples: Scaling, Smoothing, Filtering, Event Detection, Segmentation, Feature Extraction


    • A designed/composed connection between the prepared physical input and the media engine, at micro (gesture), meso (phrase), and macro (formal) levels

    • Examples:

      • Simple: microphone input volume mapped to audio file playback volume; video camera movement mapped to different audio files

      • Complex: different live oboe melodic fragments being mapped to a set of effect parameters and spatialization trajectories depending on current section of piece; locations of a performer's ten fingers / how hard they're squeezing being mapped to five in-series sound processing effects


    • A live, responsive media generator/processor (in the digital and/or analog world)

    • Examples: A set of prepared audio files triggered live, a system of effects applied to live input, a set of synthesizer patches, a sound-producing circuit


    • A device that brings the output of the media engine into the real world via Digital-to-Analog Conversion

    • Examples: Loudspeakers, Transducers, Video Projectors, Lighting Systems, Motors

Interaction Discussion

  • Humans who perceive and alter the system (performers, users) are part of the interactive network

  • Uni-directional interaction is not interaction at all; interaction must at least be a static loop (e.g. execution-evaluation cycle)

  • The definition of the interaction (how elements in the system interact) may be static or dynamic

  • Dynamism may come from:

    • Feedforward (e.g. input altering parameters of the media engine (responsive to input));

    • Feedback (e.g. output altering the design of the mapping schema (responsiveness to output))

  • Composing the transparency or perspicuity of interaction design/dynamism ("how does that work?") can be very compelling

  • The process of designing interaction may be:

    • Top-down (starting with a desired result and defining the input, mapping schema, and media engine according)

    • Middle-out (combining/collaging previously-defined interactive systems into a new interaction)

    • Bottom-up (experimenting with inputs, mapping schemas, and sound/video to ultimately define an interaction)

  • Interaction design pitfalls:

    • Lack of robustness, repeatability (e.g. event triggers only when microphone is set ~just~ right)

    • Interaction not legible (too complex, e.g. an audience is unable to perceive causal relationships between input and output in the interaction)

    • Interaction it too one-to-one ("mickey-mousing", e.g. an audience becomes bored by a static, simple relationship)

Artists/Technologists/Friends Doing Interesting Things in This Field

Instrument Designers/Performers: Atau Tanaka, Laetitia Sonami, Fang Wan, Akiko Hatakeyama, Jon BellonaMatthew Burtner, Nicholas Collins

Interactive Electronics + Acoustic Instruments: Pierre Boulez (Repons), Kaija Saariaho, Natasha Barrett, Eric Lyon, Christopher Biggs, Elainie Lillios

Media Designers/Dance: Golan Levin, Kyle McDonald, Mario Klingemann, Chunky Move, Recoil Performance Group

More Tools (click to go to webpage)

Jitter Computer Vision (cv.jit) - Max tools for intelligent video processing/feature extraction

Zsa.descriptors - Max tools for real-time advanced sound analysis and description

Max for Live - embeds Max within Ableton Live (Digital Audio Workstation)

Wekinator - easy to use software for real-time, interactive machine learning (mapping)

Processing - programming language for making visuals and learning how to code (check out my introduction HERE)

SuperCollider - programming language for audio synthesis and algorithmic composition

Gibber - creative coding environment for audiovisual performance and composition (runs in browser)