Sympathetic Guitar


Do humans response socially to abstract, expres­sive human-computer interfaces?

To inter­act with the Sympathetic Guitar is to use a famil­iar and com­fort­able Western musi­cal inter­face to feel an instant con­nec­tion to musi­cal cul­ture and style of the East.  The pro­to­type senses gui­tarists’ hand motions and per­for­mance dynam­ics to aug­ment a stan­dard clas­si­cal guitar with a dig­i­tal drone resem­bling the res­onat­ing strings of an Indian sitar.

The project con­nects my own musi­cal expres­sion to an alter­nate real­ity where my par­ents never immi­grated from India, an alter­nate real­ity where my inspi­ra­tion would likely have come from the musi­cal cul­ture of my ances­tral home.  Beyond musi­cal and eth­no­log­i­cal explo­ration, this piece was also used to sci­en­tif­i­cally inves­ti­gate whether abstract, expres­sive inter­faces are social forms of inter­ac­tive media.  Inspired by cog­ni­tive the­o­ries of social inter­ac­tion and inter­dis­ci­pli­nary per­spec­tives of immer­sion, this piece attempts to “per­ceive” the expres­sion of users in a way which causes them to respond socially, a response which demands sym­pa­thy for inan­i­mate com­puter technology.

Media Gallery

Publications (in progress, currently incomplete)

Vidyarthi, J., Antle, A. N., & Riecke, B. E. (2011). Sympathetic guitar: can a dig­i­tally aug­mented guitar be a social entity? In Proceedings of the 2011 annual con­fer­ence extended abstracts on Human fac­tors in com­put­ing sys­tems (pp. 1819–1824).
Vidyarthi, J., Riecke, B. E., & Antle, A. N. (2011). Sympathetic guitar: humans respond socially to inter­ac­tive tech­nol­ogy in an abstract, expres­sive con­text. In Proceedings of the International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization, and Imaging (ACM CAe ’11) (pp. 9–16). Vancouver, BC, Canada: ACM.