Media @ McGill

"Playing with Productivity: Musical Screens and the App Economy"

Submitted by Media@McGill on


Victoria Simon


With the funds from Media@McGill, I traveled to Chicago, Illinois to deliver a paper at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies on March 22nd. The funds from Media@McGill went towards my stay at the youth hostel, my airfare, the conference fee, and my travel around Chicago. I am very grateful for the funding I received as it allowed me to have an experience that furthered my career and intellectual development.

I attended the conference from March 22nd to 26th, 2017, and the experience was invaluable for my intellection development and career. I was able to discuss my dissertation research with leading scholars in my field. I attended many caucus and special interest group meetings in sound and media studies where I was able to connect to important people in my field. I met with scholars across a variety of disciplines, which helped me think more deeply about how my research could be applied in different directions. I also connected with scholars that I have studied in the past, and was able to discuss my research and gain valuable feedback. I attended numerous panels and discussions that broadened my understanding and knowledge of the field of media and sound studies. The discussions I engaged in will further my theoretical framing in my dissertation and will contribute greatly to my academic success.

Please find a summary of my conference presentation below.

“Playing with Productivity: Musical Screens and the App Economy Apps are not neutral”

Music apps are not just enablers. They also channel sensibilities and shape the way we create and experience cultural goods. They embody and transmit intersecting economic interests and reflect the larger culture they are embedded in. This paper explores a popular music app for production and creation known as iMaschine 2. Through the use of personal interviews with the app’s developers and an analysis of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of the app itself, it will uncover these embedded interests and sensibilities. It will ask the question: When the music production process translates a program into app form, how does the app GUI, in its presentation and organization of the musical production process, reflect industry interests and developer-user relations?

Specifically, this paper shows how the choice of features to include in the app such as the “smart keyboard” and “step-mode,” along with the presentation and unraveling of these features in time, were impacted by the developer’s assumptions regarding the envisioned end user’s demographic, attention span, and perceived expectations for apps more broadly. It argues that despite the fact that the app visually represents the pad layout of Maschine’s hardware and is advertised as a productivity tool for a more proficient and skilled user demographic, iMaschine 2’s interface creates a gamified process of music making that diverges significantly from its home studio version. It address how this approach to app interface design impacts cultural expectations of creative habits in regards to musical expression and reflects the ideology of the app market more broadly.