Week 2: Preparing the Research Ethics Form

August 19, 2020

Hello again, here I am one week later and slightly more lost. I want to blame this being my second week quarantined and therefore being considerably more restless. Nevertheless, tomorrow I can finally go out of the house and hope that will have a positive impact. So, as mentioned last week, I will go into a bit more detail about my thoughts around my initial research study and hopefully that will help me put together my answers for the ethics form that needs filling, primarily the one about the purpose of the research and the one about the study design. The working title for the study is ‘Disabled-artist-led music technology: A co-designed guitar-like instrument’.

Purpose of the research

Principal research questions

  1. What do digital musical instruments (DMIs) of rather than for disabled people look, sound and/or feel like? The study will seek to engage the participant (a physically disabled person) as a co-designer and to find out what effect this has on the resulting instrument.
  2. What cultural forms of the guitar can be preserved when designing an adapted version of the instrument? What new cultural forms can be developed?
  3. In supporting disabled people design and make musical instruments, how do collaboration and facilitation differ? The study will seek to find out how embarking in co-design can shift the roles of researcher, designer and user.

Anticipated benefits

The participant will take away the guitar-like instrument that results from our collaboration. The instrument will maintain the cultural forms of the guitar which are compatible with the participant’s access needs.

The researcher will have a tried and tested co-design process that can be shared and repurposed for future DMI co-design projects involving disabled individuals. The research group will have an aditional design of a research product to use in further studies.

Specific objectives

  • To honour the ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ adage that emerged from disability rights activism, and which encapsulates the idea that it is disabled people who know what is best for them and should be involved in any decisions that concerns them.
  • To provide critical reflection on how we involve disabled people in design processes, and on how we transfer control to the user as well as contributing to a better understanding of co-design processes in general.
  • To actively shift the roles of researcher/participant and designer/user to enable collaboration that is fundamented on the tradition of participatory design research.
  • To design and produce a guitar-like instrument that fulfills the participant’s access needs.


Participation is an important topic for the HCI community, with designers moving progressively closer to the future users of what they design. The research output can be seen across outlets such as the Participatory Design Conference, CHI or the CoDesign journal. However there is limited literature on (a) one-to-one design scenarios where researcher and participant share the designer role equally, and (b) co-design processes in the design of accessible DMIs or disabled-artist-led DMIs. The study will seek to draw from the existing literature and document the design process as well as the interactions between participant and researcher to better understand the role dynamics in this process.

Study design, methodology and data analysis

The study will comprise of twelve weekly codesign conversations, which will be held with the participant remotely. These one-to-one conversations will be based on the idea of co-design, which is a participatory design approach that aims to involve users in the design process. The participant will be asked to bring their own experiences and ideas to the conversations. The conversations will be guided by the research questions of the study. They will be one hour each and will divided in three phases with four conversations per phase:

  1. Scoping & Exploration: There will be an evaluation of hte participant’s access needs, an exploration of the cultural roles of the instrument to be preserved, and an assessment of a ready-made instrument (Strummi).
  2. Ideation & Making: The participant will be sent an ideation pack with mock-ups of the components of the instrument. This will serve as a generative toolkit to prototype possible instrument layouts according to the participant’s access needs. Based on the results, the researcher will make the finished instrument and send it to the participant, who will report back about their experiences. The participant will actively take part in the decisions that bring about the successive designs and refinements resulting from each iteration.
  3. Debrief and evaluation: The researcher and participant will agree on the parameters on which to base the evaluation. The evaluation of the DMI will use an appropriate framework and findings will be compared to the qualitative data collected throughout the study. Also, a thematic analysis will be conducted on the conversations.

Closing remarks

This week I’ve listened to NTS ‘Slow focus’ infinite mixtape a lot and one of the highlights was relistening to the fantastic soundtrack of ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

The highlighted paper this week is Lucas et al., Bespoke design for inclusive music: The challenges of evaluation. It was full of relevant points, especially on how the lived experience of disabled individuals can vary extremely from person to person, leading to the need to design for a single musician.

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