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Performative Avatars: Week 1

The two online avatar systems I chose were the South Park Studios online creator and the Pop Yourself avatar creator on

They were both very fun, with the South Park one having the more offensive and weirder options while the funko product was cute and funny. It really is a difficult task to set up a successful avatar creator. How can we create a tool with enough agency to truly represent anyone who comes across it? It is quite an impossible task and makes me re-examine what an avatar truly is. As the PBS video “Controlling vs. “Being” your Avatar” brings up, are we creating a character or a true representation of ourselves? It makes me think of the video games like NBA 2K and others that allow you to take a photo of yourself so they can wrap those pixels around your avatar. That would be a better example of a truer representation of self. But what are the desired outcomes for your avatar? In what world will it live? The South Park avatar is very successful because all of the options are within the language of South Park characters. It was like re-living an episode of South Park choosing through all the different options available. There was enough abstraction that I did not feel it resembled me at all. Instead I chose things like the “New Jersey” skin tone which was a jab at bad New Jersey spray tans, as an Italian from New Jersey I thought it was funny. This kind of character building I find more interesting.

The Funko avatar creator also had quite a bit of abstraction as there weren’t that many options to choose from. I chose the 3D goggles as a student learning 3D environments and being able to add the cat was a nice touch. I believe the avatar creators with fewer options must allow the user to buy into the environment in order to care about the characters they are creating. South Park was definitely the more successful builder for this reason.

Discussion Questions:

Are we more empathic towards avatars that look like us? Is this a tactic used for engagement by game designers? In what context is that ethical or unethical?

Makerspace Unlimited Final

I am continuing to work around Chris Wiles’ design for a mask with a snap on filter. The rubber I wanted did not come in time so instead I decided to use Meshmixer to select the outer ring and create the same effect using the PLA design. It gave the mask a more aggressive look.

I created a photo series to document the time we are in and to use as a timestamp. These masks were created for doctors and front line workers as emergency backups, resorting to HVAC filters to breathe through.

I chose black and white as my canvas to show the isolating nature of quarantine. I used the mono-light function to achieve this effect.

Project Development Studio Midterm/Update

In light of the loss of fabrication resources I will be scaling down my project physically and focusing more on the design of a smaller prototype. To facilitate this I built a neotrellis m4 express kit. This is a common development board with drumpad made by Adafruit. Using this will allow me to take advantages of the work that has been done by Adafruit to quickly built different prototypes and experiment.

Mockup #1

Using some of the example sketches on the Trellis, there are RGB LED’s in each pad as well as programmable notes.

Their MIDIUSB sketch was actually very similar to what I was looking to do and served as a great test for many of the concepts for my design.

It uses a built-in accelerometer as well as midi notes to trigger sounds and effects. The X axis changes pitch bend up and down 1 semitone. The Y axis changes the modulation filter. Those two filters are the most common in most MIDI devices but I still often find the dials not very intuitive. Using the accelerometer felt more natural and fun. I will say that because of the small form factor of the trellis while the accelerometer of the movement felt natural, it then restricts you to two notes at a time. I want it to feel less like a gameboy and more like an expressive instrument.

Upside of using Trellis as development board:

Open source, many configurations to get inspired by, and a very fast board. This Trellis has a cortex m4 chip and built in micro usb ready to go. I can also use circuit python to code in python instead of using Arduino IDE because of the extra RAM on the board.

Downside of using Trellis as development board:

Limited mostly to using only Adafruit libraries, but this is also an upside as their documentation is quite good. The largest challenge I have is two fold- I want my final design in the future to be almost twice as big. The Trellis, while cute, is a little to small for a serious user. Also the accelerometer is better used while multiple notes can be played comfortably.

Moving forward

I will be working on restricting the movement of the trellis board by mounting it in an a 3D printed enclosure with springs. I want to mount the joystick for the pitch and modulation input as well. I will continue to tune the settings and get the most intuitive experience I can out of it. I will be presenting a song demo using the enclosed board.


Arduino vs Circuit Python: I have been coding in Arduino but I do have experience with Python and will likely give it a try this week.

3D Printing development:

The trellis has many online open source files and different enclosures I can use as starting points for my design.

Fully 3D printed enclosure? Or Lasercut plus acryllic housing?

Melodic Elements- Music Interaction Design

The midi controller will engage pitch slides based on user input in two directions.

The two options for this are a joystick connected to board or an accelerometer & gyroscope.

If the board is attached to the joystick well it will most likely be more accurate with consistent use.

In the video above I tested a simple chord progression with pitch slides. I want the controller to be locked in scale so looking at chords or single notes is useful as a study. These notes wobble and change together. I started to slowly move the pitch within one semitone slowly up and down. These created really interesting effects that feel like rising and falling. The more energy (acceleration) in the change of pitch within this scale almost creates its own wah effect. The wah effect and pedals, generally spike one frequency, and turning the pedal on and off creates the wah. I think this pitch bending wah effect is also a slightly more subtle way of achieving a similar result. I want to connect the tactile nature of speeding up the pitch bend- to the way we get the input in the controller.

Rhythm and Interaction- Music Interaction Design

My project does not deal with rhythm as directly. I want to create an exploratory tool, but one that is within the confines of a DAW. As we saw in class the DAW handles the time signature and BPM. I want to trigger midi and metadata for certain parameters of built in instruments/effects. Last week I was testing the automation of pitch using the plug-in Alterboy by Soundtoys. Something I discovered was that any pitch alteration beyond around .2 semitones starts to sound off, especially in an arpeggiator. Therefore I want my tool to constrain wobble effects to smaller amounts. I also discovered that slides sound really nice but have to be done quickly.

  • Create a movement interaction for wobble
  • Create a movement interaction for slides

I’m really inspired by the work with the accelerometer in this project by Amanda Ghassaei.

I started a circuit to begin connecting sensors to Ableton

Using TSR Sliders for slides?

Week 3: Goldilocks Thought Experiment for Project Development Studio

Further developing the idea/imagining it in different scales.

Currently I want to make a midi controller that illuminates the relationship between pitches and water. In practical terms this will look be a device for adjusting and exploring the entire pitch spectrum. I want to do it in a way that can still be used in the music production pipeline, so I will be locking scale/key into the process.

Two big inspirations are the Roli Seaboard and the RC-20 plugin. The Roli seaboard gives access to all of the pitches outside of the traditional piano structure. When playing a note the user can move up and down to explore the pitches in between notes. This video also demonstrates how that sounds when playing a chord. I want to explore similar principles, but away from the piano. I want the sounds to feel like an ocean, explored through controlled movement.

The RC-20 plugin also demonstrates how exact pitches have their time and place, but often times our ear associates slight wobble, with a vintage texture. This is because analog devices like tape and vinyl have texture to them like a pitch wobble and added noise.

The things I want to experiment with most:

—Pitch modulation as exploration

–Added noise for texture

–Locking melodic scale while allowing for interesting/unique compositions

–Getting the wah effect of a guitar string

Practical interfaces I can utilize:




I’m really inspired by this project from Amanda Ghassaei where she uses an accelerometer and gyroscope to change notes.

Surfboard metaphor

Why not ride the audio wave with a surfboard? What if that surfboard had an accelerometer and gyro attached?

Let’s imagine the project in three scales/formats


The controller is a literal surfboard where the user modulates pitch with their movement and angle. There are hand controllers to change notes.

Physical Tape

If audio that has been printed on tape is suspended in the air, the user can pull it to adjust the sound. There is a direct link to the hardware and audio. This isn’t music creation as much as it is performance. How can one manipulate their movements to achieve what they want from the tape. Pulling it will adjust pitch and speed. The more it is stretched and used, the harsher it will sound, adding even more noise and texture. Eventually it will completely degrade, which emphasizes the physical nature of the medium.

Can digital audio degrade naturally? Can there be a link between real physical degradation and digital audio degradation/distortion.

Online Audio Manipulator

If this project was online as a tool, you could drop an audio file into the program. There will be an advanced audio visualizer that also lets you edit. I am inspired by the spectral display function in Adobe Audition where it shows you a heat map of frequencies and let’s you manipulate it. This is mainly used to erase spikes in the frequency spectrum cause by unexpected things while recording audio.

Adobe’s waveform display

Week 4 In Class

During class I’m going to set up an Arduino Nano with some push buttons to start prototyping the accelerometer feature/sending midi information to the computer.

User Path – Music Interaction Design

To start experimenting with user paths I honed in my idea on an expressive tool for pitch modulation. This tool must also be locked into scale to make it more interesting. An artist named in using the Roli Seaboard said “There’s an ocean between Db and Eb.” This always inspired me to see what else is possible. I wanted to take this concept further and develop a responsive board to ride the ocean pitch wave.

One of the most popular plugins in modern producing is called RetroColor. A defining feature of RetroColor is its “wobble effect module” that rides the pitch like a tape or vinyl would. I believe that giving the user more expressibility in this function would be of benefit.

In the video I show the setup for my device. I want to use pads instead of notes to get away from the standard piano. Instead of the automation I want to use an accelerometer and gyroscope to respond to pitch changes while notes/chords are being played.

Designing User Experience/Aural Mood Board -Music Interaction Design


Aural Mood Board:

specifically track three “Light Ahead” 6:45
This is an example of successful circuit bending which I might include
using a barcode scanner as an instrument
example of modulating real acoustics

I have been keeping an open mind for my project and I’ve found a few things interest me most. One being circular representation of sequencing, as well as simple ways to create organic and new sounds.

Example 1: Orbit by LDM Design

This is a really interesting project because it is all done in the code/design which I find really clever. This is beneficial because the hardware system is already really robust. The placing of the buttons on the perimeter of the circle in the grid is another great design choice, despite the issue of making a circular module in a grid system.

Example 2: Pocket Operators by Teenage Engineering

video by the amazing producer/youtuber Andrew Huang

Teenage Engineering have somewhat of a cult following in the music hardware space. They produced the OP-1 which is one of the most popular modern hardware synths, and it is known for its small form factor with surprisingly powerful sounds. There is a really strong learning curve to that device but once mastered it is pretty intuitive. I wanted to design something more simple and easy to play around with. That’s when I stumbled upon the Pocket Operators they produce. I love the playfulness of the design and how easy it looks to start playing around.

Example 3: Circuit Mono Station by Novation

I really enjoy this device’s design because it has a nice mix of pads to buttons. There is a 4×8 grid of pads with some simple/standard synthesizer controls on top, all in a pretty small form factor.

Example 4: Seaboard Block- Roli

The seaboard block by Roli is also really interesting to me when it comes to creating unique sound because it lets you bend between the pitches of the notes effortlessly. Seeing one of these played well really makes the case for always having that sort of flexibility on the keys but does require quite a bit of practice to master.

Design elements:

Who is it for?

I want my project to be used by anyone looking to create unique sonic textures for use in music production. It has to be intuitive and I don’t want to use a piano as the input. Therefore music skills are not necessarily required. I am definitely a part of the group this is intended for and can help test it myself.

Project Development Studio


I want to find a new way for musical/sonic expression through the use of analog and digital technologies. I will reverse engineer multiple old devices and use their strengths to bring character & nuance to the digital world. It will be a device lacking a piano or traditional acoustic sound and instead come from electronic devices.


My vision is a novel instrument that creates sound like no other device. It will be a tabletop instrument with a tape recorder and various buttons/parts from other devices.