Enabling communities of practice surrounding the design and use of custom accessible music technology

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4 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, the research group Performance without Barriers reflect on the process of collaboratively designing a custom guitar-inspired instrument with Eoin Fitzpatrick, a physically disabled musician from the Drake Music Project, Northern Ireland. As part of a longitudinal ethnographic case study designed to uncover factors that contribute to the longevity of custom assistive music technology, the authors monitored Fitzpatrick using this instrument over two months. The findings of this study inform a reflection on the social, technical, and environmental factors that the provision of such technology a reality. The authors make suggestions for ways to achieve long-term, sustained use. Custom technologies, seemingly unique on the surface, may well utilize similar underlying hardware and software components. Those involved in its design, fabrication, facilitation, and use could benefit from a concerted effort to share resources, knowledge, and skill as a mobilized community of practitioners. In such a pursuit, the authors recommend that practitioners consider strategies for managing the inherent complexity of digital technology. Fostering shared mental models within open-source communities can result in improved efficiency in the development of accessible music technology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-23
Number of pages15
JournalComputer Music Journal
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jul 2021
EventInternational Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression 2020 - Online, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Jul 202025 Jul 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Eoin Fitzpatrick and his team at the Drake Music Project, Northern Ireland for their continued support; the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for funding this research; and Drake Music England for their support in writing this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • accessibility
  • inclusion
  • new interfaces
  • musical expression
  • Disability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Media Technology
  • Music
  • Computer Science Applications


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