During class I had the opportunity to explain and user test the concept idea for final project on physical computing. I found it very useful and received several good suggestions that I summarized here.
# Laura Olavarria Gallegos who is also planning to build a musical box offered to help me in creating a pleasing sound composition from the experiment of genome sonification as she has experience composing musical pieces. From our discussion (and possible future collaboration) the idea of having a servo motor controlling the movement of a piece hitting a surface or string (like a drum or piano) in response to an occurrence of nucleotides in the DNA string, emerged as a possible way to construct not a 'genome audio player' but a 'genome musical instrument'. Although not to be implemented as the final project, I found this concept very interesting to further explored as side project in the near future.
# Showcase of plants_ this suggestion related to the showcase of plants from which the genes were sonified as means to reduce the level of abstraction of the piece and make the project easier to understand to the non-specialist.
# Human genes_ I asked one of the test users if the inclusion of human genes controlling diabetes would be more engaging that including genes from plants in the piece. He definitely answered YES. Perhaps a second project for a musical box focusing on genes controlling the outset of diabetes could be considered.
# Science instrument as musical interface_ this suggestion encouraged me to think about the possibility of using an iconic science instrument/object used in extracting DNA as musical interface. I thought about using a Gilson Pipetman as musical interface, or at least a glove with a flex sensor on the thumb that controls some aspect of the sound when the user uses the pipet man.
# Reduce the input channels_ this suggestion referred to simplification of the system diagram by reducing the input channels on the physical interfaces as means to keep the user focused.
# Distance sensor instead of glove with flex sensors_ almost all test users mentioned that it can be hard to control either the sound or the visuals by moving the fingers of the hand, specially when one finger is assigned as the physical interface for each gene. One suggestion in particular mentioned I should focus on the use of a distance sensor instead as means to reduce complexity.
Novelty_ Although the construction of a musical box (or a glove with flex sensors) isn't new at all, the conceptualization of a physical interface to manipulate DNA sequences, or at least their representation beyond the digital interface, is in somehow novel. In this project, each gene will have not only a physical interface, but a sound and visual representation of the information they contain. All test users appreciated this dimension of the project, even though it was presented only as drawing on paper. Furthermore, this project allows me to keep developing an artistic discourse along the lines previously established for GAGAISMO, adding solidity and coherence to my artistic practice.