Archive for February, 2011

Some thoughts on browsing music

Posted in Design, Igalia, Planet Igalia on February 28th, 2011 by femorandeira – 2 Comments

The first problem that I want to talk about in this new version of the blog is that of managing, browsing and consuming media content, with an initial focus on music and mobile devices. A good summary of current technologies and research can be found in Tim Langer’s paper “Music Information Retrieval & Visualization”.

Thinking about the systems’ user interfaces, we could imagine a graph displaying the level of control about the concrete songs being played versus the attention and frequency of interaction required (before and during playback). Different ways of enjoying music could be displayed in this graph, for instance:

  • at one corner we would find the traditional radio, which requires no interaction except for selecting the station and offers no control of the music being played;
  • radios would be nearby: they require a more careful selection and offer a bit more control during playback (skipping songs);
  • on the other end of the graph, we could think of a music game where the user can not select the music being played but is required continuous interaction to win (the interaction being the whole point of the system);
  • the extreme combination between control and need for interaction would be to individually pick one song after the other;
  • creating a playlist and playing it would be similar, but the required interaction is concentrated at the beginning, when the list is created;
  • selecting an album would be similar but does away with the need to create the list in the first place;
  • etc…

More variables could be taken into account. Of great importance is the perceived, subjective “quality” of the musical stream, how much it conforms to expectations, fits the user’s mood and follows an overall theme. Another one is the discovery of new music, which very naturally leads to a social component when we want to share our discoveries. The social facet of music does not stop at sharing: music is often used as a means of self-expression, as one of the ways that we use to create and present an image of ourselves to others. These concepts and more may determine the choices and trade-offs made during design of an interactive solution.

The ideas outlined here so far are based on some reading, personal experience and a few assumptions. Assuming is not necessarily bad but one needs to keep in mind that an assumption is not the same as hard knowledge: eventually, assumptions need to be challenged and tested. I will talk about this testing in future updates.