Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Music

Document Type



This study applies information theory to investigate human ability to communicate using continuous control sensors with a particular focus on informing the design of digital musical instruments. There is an active practice of building and evaluating such instruments, for instance, in the New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) conference community. The fidelity of the instruments can depend on the included sensors, and although much anecdotal evidence and craft experience informs the use of these sensors, relatively little is known about the ability of humans to control them accurately. This dissertation addresses this issue and related concerns, including continuous control performance in increasing degrees-of-freedom, pursuit tracking in comparison with pointing, and the estimations of musical interface designers and researchers of human performance with continuous control sensors. The methodology used models the human-computer system as an information channel while applying concepts from information theory to performance data collected in studies of human subjects using sensing devices. These studies not only add to knowledge about human abilities, but they also inform on issues in musical mappings, ergonomics, and usability.

Committee Chair

Berdahl, Edgar