Rikard Lindell, Phd Developer Designer Producer

Can you briefly describe what's so cool about c3n play?

When we started the project we tried to redesign the computer itself. If we unlearn everything about what makes a computer, what would we get? If we focus on content, creativity and collaboration in a free workflow, what would the user experience design be like? I think that the coolest thing about c3n play is that the app shows a profound redesign of the graphics user interface. 

Are there any special features that your particularly proud of?

I am particularly proud of the user experience design. I think we have made freedom a feature. Novice users get a smile on their faces when play, but there is room for virtuosity for schooled and skilled musicians too. 

Who is the audience for this app?

c3n play is our first app based on our design. It’s for people who love electronic music and want an experience beyond listening. At the same time, it paves the way for premium apps for professional music and video artists who use touch devices for their live performances.

What's the story behind this app? How and when did you come up with the idea and how did it evolve?

It's a very long story and its starts in 1998 in the car on my way home from the studio. There, behind the wheel, I realised a number of things. First, soon studios will be replaced by computer programs, and when that happens all the tactile feedback from the hardware equipment will be gone. Hardware allows you to collaborate, whereas a computer makes it difficult because you have only the mouse and a midi-keyboard as input. Second, the mouse is fantastic for keeping track of windows and tiny icons, but it’s not my instrument of choice for creating music. I also realised that naming files is not a good way of keeping track of your content. Then, I did not have the competence, nor the means to create a computer for media creativity. Luckily in 2001 I got a position at Mälardalen University and SICS (Swedish Institute of Computer Science) that allowed me to begin a research project to explore the ideas. There was much research in the 90s on alternative user interfaces that served as inspiration. In my previous career, as music procurer I knew Håkan Lidbo and the network of artist around him. They have been involved in the design process, in workshops, user studies and field studies. I presented the initial ideas in my licentiate thesis in 2004 and later refined in my doctoral dissertation in 2009. From 2009 and onwards we have been developing the research prototype into a product. Unfortunately, we had to throw away the code base what was expected to be the first product. It was built based on Apple's technologies and recommendations which are very good for iPhone apps. But, as we painfully discovered, that foundation was not sufficient to support an infinitely large zoomable surface that displays all media content on top. Fredrik Uppsäll joined the team, and we restarted the coding from scratch in January 2011. In 2012 we had a beta version running which we have refined and polished during the last year. In this last year, we have also been engaging musicians who provide loop content for the c3n play app. We have not had much funding, especially not for writing code, our families are our main supporters allowing us time to work on this project. Now when we finally get to release c3n play we have the freedom to take the project anywhere in the future.

What does c3n mean?

Content, creativity and collaboration in infinity where the N stand for the series of infinite natural numbers. Also, the 3 in the C3N acronym looks like a phonetic e, thus we say ZEN rather than see-three-en. It is not See-Threepio’s friend.

I get some sort of zen buddhist vibes looking at the demo film and the app? Are you buddhist?

We have been influence by the zen wisdom and the zen circle for our design principals. We strive to limit the design to what is essential.

What's the deal with those symbols? Why don't you have simple buttons with text like everyone else?

Initially this was Håkan's Idea. Could we have symbols instead of written words? I loved the idea and started to work on it. We first looked at symbols from various places, Maya signs, electric symbols, and signs in astronomy. Eventually, we found that corn sign had interesting characteristics. You can directly see that it is a corn sign, and they are distinguishable from each other, which is good characteristics for symbols in a language. We discovered that the corn signs could be constructed of a string of characters; thus, they have an alphabet that forms wordless symbols. The interaction in the app relies on semiotics, the forming of meaning of symbols, in interaction with the app. In other words, the users will learn the meaning of the symbols from the feedback they get. The 2011 Nobel prize laureate in literature Thomas Tranströmmer wrote a poem that provides an intellectual explanation, here is an excerpt: "I am tired of words without language […] I see traces of deers in the snow, a language without words." 

Why is it free?

It's free because we want as many as possible to get aquatinted to the experience design which we will build future premium apps on. Besides, we will be selling additional content as in-app purchase to raise funds that will allow us to more quickly develop the forthcoming premium app.

Who made the content?

David Laake, Håkan Lidbo, and Emil Hedin.

Who else have been involved in the development process ? 

Over the years we have had several students from Mälardalen Universities that have helped us in various ways, investigating and exploring different, methods, techniques, and technologies. For instance, Alex Robsahm, investigated peer-to-peer connection middle-wares, Nalle Roth implemented a prototype for wifi peer-to-peer connection to send OSC messages. William Dahlberg, Jesper Johnsson and Per-Henrik Lamm implemented video playback for the research prototype. Mattias Karlsson later ported the video implementation to iOS and OpenGL ES 2.0. Stefan Ek, Björn Helin, and Tommy Volkevics designed an alternative way to layout content on the surface and in the process implemented the database layer we are using now. Dag Forsberg, designer who graduated from Berg's school of communication contributed with the design of the corn sign symbols.

What's your plans for the future?

After the c3n play app comes our c3n performance premium app. In c3n performance you can use your own video and audio loops. The app will also fit into the ecosystem of music equipment and other apps complementing your current investment rather competing with it. We are investigating many interesting inter-app and peer-to-peer communication possibilities such as: WIST, JACK, AudioBus, OSC, and of iOS native Core MIDI. We will of course continue to develop and support c3n play, and keep adding more content and features to that as well.

Publications by Rikard Lindell

Crafting_interaction The epistemology of modern programming Phd thesis Collaborative Live Multimedia Surface Interaction Assessment Sorting and Collecting of a Thousand Drawings Towards New Interaction A Content Centric Data Surface Approach The Data Surface Interaction Paradigm The Craft of Programming InteractionCode As Design Material Pining for the Materiality of Code Crafting Interaction Learning from the Digital Arts Craftsmanship Users_Say We Do Not Like to Talk to Each Other When Information Navigation Divorces File Systems Database Surface Prototype Results