Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A State Of Flow

Yesterday was the first Solares after my return from the Far East. I'd been pondering the learning approach to the session, and had predicated the learning plan on the probability that the participants would have done very little practice. Hence I designed the workshop as a practice session, not as an overt learning session in a flipped classroom context.

The purpose to doing that was the removal of anxiety.

As we'd moved into investigating the domain of timelines and fundamental rhythms, solares participants are being asked to re-frame their embodiment activity as percussionists. Achieving a "state of flow" is essential to the activity's success.

According to Owen Schaffer's white paper "Crafting Fun User Experiences: A Method to Facilitate Flow, Human Factors International" (2013), there are seven conditions to be met for a state of flow to be achievable:
  1. knowing what to do;
  2. knowing how to do it;
  3. knowing how well you're doing;
  4. knowing where to go (if navigation is involved);
  5. high perceived challenges;
  6. high perceived skills; and
  7. freedom from distractions.
In practice, these were satisfied within the exercise of: generating shaker tones synchronised to the audible tones of the conga's tumbao moderno, while performing salsa's atiempo embodiment rhythm, to a salsa track.

Conditions 1 & 2
were met through revision of exercises one through three from the last session (see:

Condition 3
was fulfilled by the short impulse sound of the shaker, providing immediate feedback on quality of performance.

Condition 4
largely irrelevant, was met by self-determination in the direction of the rhythmic walk.

Conditions 5 & 6
were satisfied by the as-yet undeveloped proficiency in the synchronous performance of two timeline rhythms: back-beat and embodiment; to a qualitatively stringent level (less than 40 milliseconds).

Condition 7
was met by the studio environment (privacy), exercise design (solo practice), and unobtrusive support (subtle remedial intervention).

Three common states disrupt the maintenance of flow:
  • apathy - low challenge level, low skills level, engenders a general lack of interest
  • boredom -  low challenge level, high skills level, causes a distracting search for higher challenges
  • anxiety - high challenge level, low skills level, creates a feeling of uneasiness.
The latter is why the session was planned the way it was; to maximise the possibility of achieving the state of flow.

It succeeded.

At just before the workshop's mid-point, it was observable that each participant had entered (albeit inconsistently) entrainment. (See also PDF on entrainment by the Open University: As proficiency increased, so did the need for challenge to maintain interest for flow. Adjustments to only three parameters were necessary:
  1. variations in tempo,
  2. quality of shaker tone, and
  3. fine synchronisation between timelines.
This was the first time I'd seen solares' participants enter the biomusic state of flow, and it heralds an exciting threshold of possibilities in the workshops.

Loo Yeo

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