Pirkka Åman

Aalto University

Twitter: @pirkkaaman

Musical Serendipity

During the last decade, the promises of the networked digital technologies have started to realize. Time and location independent production, distribution and consumption of media content, together with social media participation are now reality for everyone with a computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. This socio-technological revolution has also made possible highly personalized media consumption services. These services are the focus of my study, specifically context-aware music discovery and recommendation applications.

This dissertation belongs to the field of Design research, specifically to the field of Interaction design research (IxDR), as described by Fällman (2008). IxDR studies the interactions between users and computational applications such as mobile apps and web services. Most topics of this work might as well be handled within the closely interweaved field of Human-computer interaction (HCI), which designs interactive computer systems to be effective, efficient, easy, and enjoyable to use (Dix et al. 2003). As HCI and IxDR often handle same topics, using the same methods, in many cases the distinction is made only on institutional or organizational grounds.

I will apply knowledge from the other fields of research to the area of design research, when I see it beneficial for the subject handled. This kind of multidisciplinary approach is typical to the discipline of New Media, which applies not only methods and concepts from different sciences but also from various artistic fields such as media art, film, literature and visual arts. My work also takes advantage of the knowledge accumulated in social sciences and humanities.

New Media can be defined as a “mix between existing cultural conventions and conventions of software” (Manovich, 2002). The concept was born in the emergence of digital and computerized media products, such as CD-ROMs and websites, in the late 1980s. Using the term New Media, distinction was made between new, digitally produced and distributed media and older media forms such as television and radio programs, feature films, recorded music, newspapers, magazines and books. The new digital technology enabled exploration of the interactive new forms of media and also emulated and remixed all existing media formats and technologies. The fast growth of the Internet use by the emergence of the visual Internet interfaces (e.g. World Wide Web) made also the study of social phenomena important in New Media (Manovich, 2002, Leinonen 2010, Negroponte 1995; Bolter & Grusin).

One of the key concepts of my work is personalization, which means tailoring media content according to user’s preferences. It is done either by gathering information from user automatically, or by user input. Recommendation systems are a form of personalization. Another key concept, serendipity, i.e. making positive discoveries by chance is often enabled by well-designed recommendation services that use personalization techniques. By music interactions (MIx) I refer to human-technology interactions with recorded music content. Context means roughly a certain frame within something exists or happens. For example, mobile phones enable use of applications that adapt to various situations or contexts user may encounter.

My research question is how to design enjoyable, serendipitous music recommendation and discovery services that utilize contextual information (e.g. time and location) from the interaction point of view?