Research done at Ball State University, presented at the Indiana Music Educator’s Association 2020 conference poster session.
Examines the attitudes of classical musicians towards the use of technology as a performative element during concerts.
A large amount of current research into technology acceptance is focused on a person’s intention to use a specific technology. When technology is used as a creative and performative element during a concert, the relationship of a musician to the technology in use is typically not that of a “user.” Rather, they tend to share a more collaborative relationship.
This study built a theoretical model by examining current models of technology acceptance along with previous attitudinal studies of musicians towards the use of technology. From this, three core constructs were theorized: perceived need, perceived conventionality, perceived humanness. A survey instrument was developed that examined key areas of performance technology at their intersections with these constructs.
Musicians generally saw a need for the use of technology in performance. However, their sense of technology’s ideal role was that of an augmentative one rather than being a creative force. On the other hand, they do find technology to be a positive medium for creative change. This preference for technology as an augmentative rather than a creative element, I think, stems from the major area of concern.
The largest area of expressed concern was a sense that the use of technology could diminish the “human” element in the performance. This mirrors a trend that I noticed in music therapy papers. Studies of music therapists and their use of technology in therapeutic practice have noted that there is a preference for “acoustic” over electronic instruments, because they believe that electronic instruments are less-capable of human expression.
Mirroring this, concerns raised about the areas of computer music and electroacoustic music sometimes revolve around the lack of (or, perhaps it would be better expressed, “perceived lack of”) human control. This perceived lack of human control being a major factor leads me to think that I can better define my constructs by refining what I mean by “conventionality.”
Moving Forward – Some Musings
A piece of technology can be conventional in two ways. First, it can be conventional in the way that it appears to operate. There are certain technology form-factors and experiences that we are used to seeing fulfill certain roles. As we are forced to rely on technology that we increasingly do not understand, our comfort (and our acceptance) with the technology likely decreases.
Secondly, technology can be conventional in the role that it fulfills. Time-keeping technology has evolved from mechanical metronomes driven by weights and springs that generally kept the same single tempo to modern digital clocks that can navigate tempo and meter changes and are precisely accurate over the course of hours if not days. Conversely, automated gait and posture measurement is far from widely used, and the idea of relying on a computer to measure and correct a musician’s posture when practicing is still quite novel and generally unaccepted. Just as our comfort with how the technology works is likely predictive of our acceptance of it, our comfort with why we are using the technology for any given task should also be predictive. As technology encroaches into areas that we are not used to seeing it operate in, it likely follows that our comfort with it decreases.
From this, I think that a new model for “technology tolerance” (which I define as “willingness to share a space with a technology” to differentiate it from use-based acceptance) can be developed; following these constructs: need, conventionality (of form/operation), tradition (conventionality in role), and human control. For future research, I intend to develop an instrument to test this predictive model for various areas of music performance. It would also be interesting to see if this model can be generalized beyond music performance.