Distributed Participatory Design: The challenges of designing with physically disabled musicians during a global pandemic

Franziska Schroeder, Alex Lucas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The global COVID-19 pandemic has been an extraordinary situation. Social-distancing has impacted the vast majority of people, reorganising society, physically separating us from friends, family and colleagues. Collectively we found ourselves in a distributed state, reliant upon digital technologies to maintain social and professional connections. Some activities can translate unabated to a digital medium, with benefits, such as the convenience inherent in many online shopping and banking services. Other activities, particularly those which are collaborative and personal, including music-making or design, may need to be re-framed and re-thought due to the absence of in-person contact.

In Northern Ireland, the Performance Without Barriers (PwB) research group works with disabled artists from the Drake Music Project Northern Ireland (DMNI) to identify ways in which technology can remove access barriers to musicking. Since disabled people are experts in their unique lived experience of disability, they must be involved in the design process, an approach known as participatory design. Many of us are still adjusting to the new normal, only beginning to understand the impact of distributed digital living. In this article, we examine how the work of PwB has been affected, changed and adapted during the pandemic, expanding ideas of distributed creativity to the notion of distributed design. The authors formalise the concept of distributed participatory design, an approach which classifies PwBs current research activities in the area of accessible music technology (AMT) design and improvised musicking. Consideration is given to the impact distribution has on degrees of participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-229
Number of pages18
JournalOrganised Sound
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Music
  • Computer Science Applications


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