Who’s in Charge? Exploring Agency through Instrument Design is a digital performance system (musical instrument, live visuals system) merely a passive object, a tool to enact and give form to our intention? Or is it a collaborator in the creative process, imbued with its own agency, capable of frustrating and resisting as well as supporting our intention in surprising ways? In this workshop we will explore the design of simple systems that give rise to complex behaviours. Using combinations of people, props, strings, cardboard and tape we will draw ideas and inspirations to inform the design of a digital musical instrument (or other digital systems for creative expression) in a way that moves beyond ideas of control or instrumentalism.
In the second part of the workshop we will put these ideas into practice. Working with sensors, microcontrollers and software we will develop a performance system that explores agency as a guiding design direction. Through this workshop we wish to arrive at a better collective understanding of:
• How agency is distributed across people and things in performance.
• Whether performance with digital systems is too often seen in terms of demonstrating control rather than developing empathy and skilful adaptability.
• How we can move past the design motivation of interface transparency towards a celebration of resistance, instability and cotuning.
We will provide a range of equipment and materials for aiding the physical sketching process, but you are also encouraged to bring your own objects of interests (e.g. computers, instruments, antiques, beverages). Experience with a programming environment such as Max/MSP, PD will be useful but is not essential.