Ubiquity

In the current milieu of digital convergence, touch-screen technologies and simulated haptic feedback in mobile media have introduced entirely new modes of computer-human interaction, encouraging a more complex relationship between both body and interface, as well as between one’s individual senses. The convergence of digital audio production and portable gaming provide a particular case in point, as the logic of manipulating various musical parameters seems to provide a perfect integrative experience to the mobile tactility of video games. The rise of music video games on smartphones and mobile consoles, as well as the increased use of body mapping sensors in digital audio production, have worked to both reconceptualize the positioning of the body in relation to the interface, and reconfigure the practical techniques required to facilitate the interaction between the two.

In this chapter, I examine the influx of “apps” and other mobile devices for music production through the lens of emerging theories surrounding human-computer interaction (HCI) and “ubiquitous” or “pervasive” computing.[1] As Jason Farman makes clear throughout his book, Mobile Interface Theory, as computing technologies continually move outside of their static location in the home, the cultural priorities imbued by these devices shift from the device itself to the activities and processes surrounding it.[2] Focusing on beatmaking “apps” such as Propellerhead’s Figure and Native Instruments’ iMaschine, as well as the work of Japanese transmedia artist Toshio Iwai, I contextualize developments in haptic, mobile music production among broader technological trends such as augmented reality (AR) and body mapping. In doing so, I expose and interrogate the general social and cultural desire at the heart of cybernetics and posthumanism: to simultaneously remake and efface the “natural” world through computing. As facilitators of an increasing “tuning of the world,” how might these augmented “soundscapes” of ubiquitous computing affect fundamental practices of listening and spatial embodiment?[3]

[1] Ulrik Ekman, ed. Throughout: Art and Culture Emerging with Ubiquitous Computing (Cambridge and London: The MIT Press, 2012).
[2] Farman, 1.
[3] R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1994).