On Friday, January 10, I attended Emma Frid’s thesis defense at KTH. Emma and I collaborated in a research project a few years ago, and one of the major outcomes was this open access article presenting the results of an experiment with a multimodal interface including both haptic feedback and two different sonification models. Emma’s thesis work relates heavily to the research field of Sound and Music Computing (also the name of a sub-group at the department of Media technology and Interaction Design at KTH where I worked for more than a decade), and focuses specifically on (accessible) digital music instruments and interfaces. The main research question is “How can music interfaces be designed for inclusion?”. The thesis “Diverse Sounds – Enabling Inclusive Sonic Interaction” can be found here. The main supervisor was professor Roberto Bresin and co-supervisor was professor Eva-Lotta Sallnäs Pysander. Both of them work at the department of Media technology and Interaction Design at KTH. The opponent was Reader Andrew McPherson from the school of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary University of London. The examination committee consisted of senior researcher Elaine Chew from the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the Music Representations Team at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music, professor Rolf Inge Godøy from the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion at University of Oslo, associate professor Dan Overholt from the department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology at Aalborg University and professor Henrik Frisk from the department of Composition, Conducting and Music Theory at Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
After the introduction by associate professor Madeline Balaam, who chaired the event, the opponent held a presentation about Emma’s thesis for about 45 minutes. It was a very good presentation and it was interesting to listen to his interpretation of the work performed. He concluded his presentation by discussing the nine properties that according to Emma should be considered when designing accessible digital music instruments; expressiveness, playability, longevity, customizability, pleasure, sonic quality, robustness, multimodality and causality (see the thesis for a thorough coverage of these properties and the work that gave rise to them). After a short break the opponent, and later on the members of the committee, asked question that formed a good foundation for interesting discussions about the thesis work.
I think Emma did a really good job answering the questions and discussing her work. She elaborated a lot on the themes that were brought up to discussion and it was very clear that she knows a lot about this research field. She was also calm during the entire process and even helped out when the opponent and committee members e.g. needed headsets and/or microphones. One thing that was special about this defense is that the opponent, as well as all members of the grading committee, began their round of questions by congratulating Emma on the excellent job that she has performed! I have not seen that during other defenses I have attended. The defense was rounded off by a very long applaud – it was almost as if the audience expected some kind of extra performance on stage. 🙂