Friday, 22 August 2014

The science behind #HookedOnMusic

We caught up with Ashley, the scientist behind the #HookedOnMusic project to find out about science behind the online game.

MSF: The game is trying to find the catchiest parts of musical hooks.  Does it matter that people have such different musical tastes?

Ashley:  No, as long as we have a lot of players! So far, more than 17,000 players have tried #HookedOnMusic.

High player numbers mean we can use models to successfully separate how much of the information comes from differences among players, versus how much comes from differences in the fragments of music. 

For example, some people are faster at these types of games, whilst other people are more familiar with pop music. 

Ashley chatting during Manchester Science Festival 2013
MSF: What are power users and why do you need them?

Ashley: Our model needs players who have played the game a number of times, ideally between 50 and 200 plays, or between fifteen minutes and an hour.

For the experiment to be a success, we need ‘power users’ who play many times and play all four of the games: "Recognise That Tune?", "What's the Hook?", "Time Trial" and "In a Row".

In summary, the more people who play for over 15 minutes, repeatedly play and play all of the games on offer, the better the quality of data.

MSF: How do you quantify catchiness?

Ashley: Catchiness is hard to define. #HookedOnMusic includes four different measures related to catchiness:

    1. Recognising a tune

    2. Time it takes to recognise a tune

    3. Following along with the tune

    4. How the catchiness of the tune compared to other fragments in the same song (in the "What's the Hook?" game).

Firstly, we combine the first three measures in a model which uses a theory of how the mind works to reduce data that can account for speed and accuracy at the same time.  

We then use the fourth measure of catchiness, the rankings from the "What's the Hook?" game. This is an extra check to ensure that the particular variant we choose captures our natural intuitions about catchiness.
To play #HookedOnMusic you need a strong internet connection

MSF: What's next for #HookedOnMusic?

Ashley: I'll be at the Science Museum Late on Wednesday 27 August, so come and have a chat with me in person if you're in London.  

The game will be live until the end of September.

The results of the analysis will be presented at the Manchester Science Festival on Saturday 1 November.  (MSF: Watch this space for the announcement of the MSF14 programme in early September)

You’ve got from now until the end of September to keep playing the game and become a power user, so what are you waiting for?