Building on previous and current trends in listening to music, this research proposes a future scenario in which music becomes ultra-personalized. A study is conducted that looks at the practice of collectively listening to music within a heavily individualised society without having a direct common ground in music, as potentially all music is tuned, altered or generated by artificial intelligence (AI). Using a future scenario with an interactive research artefact to find patterns about the possible delegation of tasks between the user and AI and reflect on different values found in the practice in the future. Alongside, the research brings forward key elements for creating connection in collective listening experiences, being; synchronization and transparency of personal musical taste/genre. Whenever these elements are not present, virtual proximity and social interaction gain importance.
In order to answer our research question, the artefact and podcast were presented to two online focus groups. Both groups consisted of four participants which beforehand were asked to fill out a questionnaire inquiring about their ‘music taste’. This was used for the starting location of each participant in the virtual landscape, this location would be close to the genre of music they normally listen to. This was based on the importance of certain instrumental layers in those genres. User’s start locations would then be placed closer to that instrumental layer on the digital landscape.
At the beginning of the skype session, the participants were asked to use a headset for the music stream and their computer’s speakers for the skype conversation. This, to imitate the feeling of the proposed scenario where the AI is implemented in the brain in a social scenario. All participants were asked to download and install the artefact that was created, the movements of the participants on the landscape were recorded to have insights on the relation of their movements and their social interaction.
Next, each participant listened to the podcast to emerge themselves into the future perspective, after which they were asked to join the future landscape simultaneously to make sure all the music of all the participants were synchronized. They were given 10 minutes to explore the landscape and discover all its dimensions. When little actions were taken by the participants, the researchers provided them with a small task or hint to further explore the digital landscape or collaboration. Afterwards, the participants were interviewed together using the interview questions as guidelines to gather insights related to the experience, future perspective, and overall opinion about the topic which was presented.
What immediately opened a new perspective to me was the familiarization with the view of social sciences into the design process. For one, I was largely surprised by the effect the future probing had on the research process. Through the process of analyzing current trends, a very interesting future scenario could be build. To me, this felt very powerful as it showed possible problem statements and a clear philosophy to design for. I did have a concern about the speculative nature of the technique however, as the foundation on which the research contexts were build were far from concrete and perhaps too subjective. In general however, I do see its strengths as it does allow light to shed upon parts of the everyday that were not very prominent before and the qualitative data on aspects as the relationship with technology can be extracted. All things I do now consider valuable for the world of design and research.
A direct challenge that we had to overcome was the limitation of the soloistic experience, which would not work at all in the research topic that we had chosen. To solve this, I had to go through a learning process of
creating networked multi-user experiences, which I had never done before. Through multiple iterations and tests with our own group, I learnt to incorporate features that would still make it possible to experiment with
multiple users at the same time and still make it ‘feel’ like participants would exist in the same world (e.g. through making it possible to be
able to push and hear each other). The results and comments of the participants showed great potential in this way of virtually prototyping