Digital Musical Instruments, Accessibility, and Facilitated Performance

Dickens, Amy (2023) Digital Musical Instruments, Accessibility, and Facilitated Performance. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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A range of bespoke devices, ADMIs, and commercially available DMIs are used in inclusive music settings when creating, practising, and performing music. However, the shared knowledge about what makes an existing DMI accessible is limited. This thesis investigates the accessibility of existing DMIs using participatory action research methods to establish more standardised methods for evaluating accessibility. Additionally, this research explores how DMIs are used in inclusive music settings to provide access to music-making activities using the theoretical framework of activity theory.

Improving accessibility in meaningful ways requires the active involvement of disabled people in research. The participatory action elements of this research focused on actively engaging in inclusive music practices with young disabled people. The researcher achieved this active engagement through conducting two field studies within special educational needs and disability (SEND) schools. These field studies allowed the researcher to share disabled

musicians’ lived experiences of using DMIs and understand the challenges they face because of the technical and social barriers to music-making.

Gaining a deeper understanding of the technical and social barriers disabled musicians face when using DMIs enabled the researcher to systematically evaluate the use and accessibility of DMIs, including how DMIs support access to music creation, what challenges exist when a disabled person

uses a DMI, and how DMIs can address an individual’s creative and physical needs. Working within inclusive music settings also highlighted the complexity of social structures, and the importance of facilitators, within inclusive music communities.

The outcomes from the field studies introduce the concept of ‘facilitated performance’ and examine the multiple roles adopted by facilitators in supporting and empowering disabled musicians in their creative processes. This research also proposes five core qualities for evaluating the fundamental accessibility of existing DMIs, while acknowledging that disability is highly individualistic in ways that can impact how a person uses a DMI. These five core qualities are durability, flexibility, practicality, complexity, and compatibility.

This thesis establishes a framework for facilitating access to musical experiences using these qualities. The framework proposes guidelines for achieving accessibility in DMIs and a method for evaluating the accessibility of existing DMIs. By offering a way to evaluate the accessibility of DMIs holistically, this framework aims to assist DMI creators, disabled musicians, and those working in inclusive music settings.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Greenhalgh, Christopher
Koleva, Boriana
Keywords: accessibility, digital musical instruments, music, technology,
Subjects: M Music and Literature on music > ML Literature of music
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Computer Science
Related URLs:
Item ID: 71799
Depositing User: Dickens, Amy
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2024 14:46
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2024 14:46

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