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Choice Manipulation in Music Technology

(presets are for losers)

by Dr. Jason Palamara Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Technology Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis





Does the technology you use to compose music change the way you compose? If so, how much should we care? The process by which a menu of options limits our creative or decisive choices is what is called choice manipulation by behavioral psychologists. Choice manipulation is continually being used by apps like Instagram, Tinder and Facebook to keep users engaged with social media environments despite the often deleterious effects of staying engaged. Many readers will have heard the common complaint from social media users who engage with a specific app in order to answer a question such as, “what did my friend think of my status?,” a situation which often ends with the user in question staying on the app for much longer than was intended. The time spent engaging with a social media app, seemingly against one’s will often occurs to the detriment of real-life interactions with other humans. Ultimately, this situation likely arises from a company and their customers having conflicting goals. The company’s goals are, “Keep users engaged with the app as long as possible to increase the likelihood of ad dollars or sales,” whereas the user’s goals are more likely personal and seemingly frivolous (to be entertained, informed or connecting with friends, etc...). While the intentions of many software developers are most likely as nefarious as popular culture may imply, the systems we create to do almost anything most definitely do limit our choices and this can be a big problem when our primary reason for engaging with a particular system in the first place was that we wanted to create, not have our choices limited. This paper analyzes some ways in which various music technologies and digital audio workstation (D.A.W.) programs limit creativity, and what music tech educators can do about it.

Download the full paper here...

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