This year the NIME’s Pamela Z Award for Innovation has been awarded to Margaret Schedel for her career, her work on diversity and NIMEs, and her co-authored paper “Women’s Labor: Creating NIMEs from Domestic Tools”. We have also awarded Ximena Alarcón Díaz with an honorary mention for her work on migration issues and the paper “INTIMAL: Walking to Find Place, Breathing to Feel Presence”. Huge congratulations! Next, we explain the context of this award and more details on this year’s ceremony.
The International Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) is an annual conference about new musical interface design that attracts researchers and practitioners alike. NIME started in 2001 as a workshop at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) and in the following year it became the standalone conference, as we know it now.
Diversity issues have been discussed in some occasions. For example, NIME 2014 organized a panel discussion on Gender, Education, Creativity in Digital Music and Sound Art by Georgina Born, Kyle Devine, Sally-Jane Norman and Mark Taylor (Born and Devine, 2016). Another remarkable event happened during NIME 2017 in Copenhaguen. Three delegates from the organization Women in Music Tech at Georgia Tech attended the conference with institutional support: Anna Weisling, Takumi Ogata and Anna Xambó. We interviewed Stefania Serafin and also reflected about where we were as a NIME community with Anna Weisling’s thoughtful blog post Big Questions.
A landmark was achieved at the following year in Blacksburg, VA, USA. The NIME 2018 organizers took care on bringing more diversity to the conference. There was diversity in the keynote speakers with Pamela Z, Ikue Mori, Onyx Ashanti, and R. Benjamin Knapp. There was a panel on Future, Democratization, and Globalization of NIMEs with Onyx Ashanti, Peter Nyboer, Pamela Z, Anna Xambó and R. Benjamin Knapp (moderator). Also, the paper “Who Are the Women Authors in NIME?” was presented by Anna Xambó, looking at the conference range 2001-2017.
There was a memorable, well-attended workshop on diversity organized by Astrid Bin, Anna Weisling and Sarah Schoemann as representatives of Women in Music Tech at Georgia Tech that helped to give structure to our thoughts as a community on how to change perspectives. After permission granted from Pamela Z, the same team proposed the Pamela Z award with the intent to recognise researchers who are positively contributing to bringing more diversity to the NIME community. Sarah Belle Reid was awarded for her work and co-authored paper “Women Who Build Things: Gestural Controllers, Augmented Instruments, and Musical Mechatronics”. Last but not least, an important outcome of last year’s conference was the publication of the NIME conference code of conduct and NIME Conference Diversity Statement.
The NIME 2019 committee with Rodrigo Schramm as a conference chair has emphasized their will to also bring more diversity to this year’s conference at all the levels (committee members, keynote speakers, reviewers, and so on). For example, Isabel Nogueira has been chair of installations and consultant of diversity in the committee, Ana Maria Romano Gómez has been a keynote performer, and Anna Xambó has been paper co-chair. Also, Carolina Brum Medeiros, Laurel Pardue, Margaret Schedel, and Xiao Xiao have been session chairs. Laurel Pardue won the best paper award for her presentation of the co-authored paper “Separating Sound from Source: Sonic Transformation of the Violin Through Electrondynamic Pickups and Acoustic Actuation”.
Thanks to the support and encouragement of the NIME 2019 committee, the NIME steering committee with Alexander Refsum Jensenius as the chair, and the creators of the Pamela Z Award, we decided to continue with this initiative. The jury was formed by: Isabel Nogueira, Astrid Bin, Anna Weisling, Ana Maria Romano Gómez, and Anna Xambó.
After a selection of relevant papers related to diversity in NIME with the help of Marcelo Queiroz (paper co-chair of NIME 2019), the jury decided unanimously about giving the award to Margaret Schedel and also agreed on giving an honorary mention to Ximena Alarcón Díaz.
We announced the award during the town hall on the last day, June 6, 2019. You can read the full speech here, which was written by the five jury members. Isabel Nogueira was the spokeswoman and mentioned that “it is not only important to have women participating, the community must know their work and value their expertise occupying representative roles, as keynote speakers, authors, oral session chairs and performers. Also, we must consider some formative activities to the whole community about how to produce conditions to women feel more included, supported and safe. We hope that in the forthcoming NIMEs there will be a space for discussing these issues as a community”.
Isabel Nogueira continued saying that the award “was named after Pamela Z because she was a keynote in the founding year, because she is a pioneer in this field and an extraordinary artist, and because spending time each NIME thinking about an award named after a prolific African American woman is a way of continually highlighting the value of her work, and representing voices that are often invisible in the community”.
“This award is not just about a paper but also considers the researcher’s body of work. For this reason, we would like to recognize Margaret Schedel’s work for the co-authored paper “Women’s Labor: Creating NIMEs from Domestic Tools” which brings the labour of women into the spotlight through an innovative musical instrument. (…) In addition, Margaret Schedel is a prolific cellist, a researcher, an instrument designer, a performer, a teacher, a technologist. (…) The award includes a copy of the next album compilation by the keynote speaker Ana Maria Romano Gomez named Mujeres que suenan y truenan.”
We realized that Margaret Schedel had left the conference, but fortunately Sonya Yuditskaya was able to collect the award on her behalf!
The honorary mention award to Ximena Alarcón Díaz was to recognize her efforts to connect women’s voices who are unheard and have suffered from migrating to other countries involuntarily. The gift was kindly provided by Margaret Schedel and is a copy of the book “Artful Design” by Ge Wang.
It was nice to see the announcement of the Pamela Z Award for Innovation to Margaret Schedel and honorary mention to Ximena Alarcón Díaz had a considerable impact on social media. This shows not only that the awardees are fully supported in this well deserved recognition, but also that there is a visible change of perspective in NIME. A few days ago, it was announced an open call for the role of NIME diversity officer to develop guidelines and work with future chairs on improving diversity. And the topic of next year’s NIME in Birmingham will be accessibility - making musical expression accessible to all. We are glad to see that Pamela Z’s award has arrived to stay! Thanks to all those who helped us to make it happen!
- X. Alarcón Díaz, V. González, and Ç. Erdem, “INTIMAL: Walking to Find Place, Breathing to Feel Presence”, in Proceedings of NIME, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2019.
- G. Born and K. Devine. Gender, Creativity and Education in Digital Musics and Sound Art. Contemporary Music Review, 35(1):1–20, 2016.
- S. Reid, S. Sithi-Amnuai, and A. Kapur, “Women who build things: gestural controllers, augmented instruments, and musical mechatronics”, in Proceedings of NIME, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA, 2018, p. 178–183.
- M. Schedel, J. Ho, and M. Blessing, “Women’s Labor: Creating NIMEs from Domestic Tools”, in Proceedings of NIME, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2019.
- A. Xambó, “Who Are the Women Authors in NIME? – Improving Gender Balance in NIME Research”, in Proceedings of NIME, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA, 2018, p. 174–177.