Composing Interactions

An Artist's Guide to Building Expressive Interactive Systems

published in June 2022

  • Weborder via V2_
  • International distribution to bookstores via Idea Books

Photo by Felicity van Oort

Interactive technologies have become a part of many different artistic practices. Nowadays artists make use of sensors, electronic circuits, computation, and algorithms to create engaging aesthetic experiences.

Composing Interactions - An Artist’s Guide to Building Expressive, Interactive Systems brings together aesthetic considerations, practical guidelines for project development, and an overview of sensors, circuits, and processing algorithms.

Marije Baalman applies her extensive experience as an artist and as an engineer to guide the reader through the creation process of interactive digital artworks. She elaborates on different techniques for creating meaningful interactions and presents detailed case studies of a range of artistic work from the field to illustrate the techniques in practice.

  • 608 pages, 256 illustrations, 3 color print
  • Language — English
  • ISBN/EAN: 978-90-828935-4-0
  • Weborder via V2_
  • International distribution to bookstores via Idea Books

Photo by Felicity van Oort

From the forewords:

“Baalman’s sheer enthusiasm and excitement to share with others her own experience in creating interactive experience is what sets the book apart from others. Whether you are an artist, designer, programmer, choreographer, dancer, or musician, in these pages you will find an A to Z compendium that you can use to better imagine and build interactive artistic works.”

Chris Salter

“Composing Interactions is a significant guide and place-holder that will incite artists to knowingly navigate the myriad possibilities offered by today’s digital technologies. Baalman’s work will undoubtedly inspire actions, interactions, and reactions that feed our ever plural artistic futures.”

Sally Jane Norman

Photo by Felicity van Oort

About the author

Marije Baalman has built new musical interfaces since 2002 and has been creating various projects involving realtime data in the contexts of music, dance and installations.

In addition she has been developing the Sense/Stage wireless sensing platform since 2007, which is available through a webshop. She has held numerous workshops involving realtime sensing and mapping data from sensors to sound. Between 2011 and 2016 she worked at STEIM developing hardware, firmware and software for artists. She was also involved in the Modality project, a toolkit for SuperCollider to access HID, MIDI and OSC controllers, and the SuperCollider port to the Bela, an embedded platform for creating musical interfaces.

She has written several articles about her artistic practice and research over the past years and contributed to three chapters in The SuperCollider Book published by MIT Press in 2011, with a new edition following in 2022.

Since 2016 she is a member of the artist association iii (instrument inventors initiative) in The Hague.

Photo of Marije Baalman, by Nina Karim van Oort Photograph made by Nina Karim van Oort



  • Chris Salter
  • Sally Jane Norman

Part 1 – Interactive Art, the Question of Mapping, and Aesthetics

  • 1 — Interactive Art and the Question of Mapping
  • Visual Language
  • 2 — Aesthetics in Interactive, Digital Art

Case Study I – Roosna and Flak: Dialogue Between Sound and Movement

Part 2 – The Creation Process

  • 3 — The Project
  • 4 — Development Process

Case Study II - Andi Otto’s Fello: Bow Waves

Part 3 - The Physical Elements and Their Connections

  • 5 — Custom Sensor Interfaces
  • 6 — Commercial, Off-the-Shelf Controllers
  • 7 — Microphones and Audio Analysis
  • 8 — Cameras and Computer Vision
  • 9 — Elements for Processing
  • 10 — Output Elements
  • 11 — Connections
  • 12 — Communication Protocols
  • 13 — Bringing the Elements Together

Case Study III - Steim Tools: Instrumentation for Responsiveness

Part 4 – Understanding Data

  • 14 — Types and Roles of Data
  • 15 — Characteristics of Data Streams
  • 16 — Sampling and Quantization
  • 17 — Exploring Data

Case Study IV – Jeff Carey’s ctrlKey: Complex Organization in the Musical Moment

Part 5 – Processing Data

  • 18 — From One Range to Another
  • 19 — Filtering and Deriving Data
  • 20 — Using Buttons
  • 21 — Modes of Behavior
  • 22 — Mixing and Splitting Signals
  • 23 — Output Model

Case Study V – Cathy van Eck: Composing for Objects

Part 6 – Tuning Data

  • 24 — Tuning and Calibration
  • 25 — Dealing with Disturbances

Case Study VI – Jaime del Val’s Metatopia: Environments for Metaformances and Disalignment

Part 7 – Structure of the Interactive System

  • 26 — Time and Memory
  • 27 — Programming Structure and Concepts


  • Appendix — A Binary Numbers: Bytes and Bits
  • References
  • Index
  • Acknowledgements
  • Colophon

Photo by Felicity van Oort


Overall design

Graphic concept, visual language and diagrams.
Robin Smits & Bram Bogaerts Superposition

Book design

Kim Waterlander & Marjanne Kuipers STUKK design

Photography (in the book)

Nina Karim van Oort Studio Nina Karim


Joke Brouwer V2_ - lab for unstable media


Creative Industry Fund NL


additional support for printing costs Konrad Boehmer Foundation


additional support for printing costs iii

All photos of the book on this website are made by Felicity van Oort

Visual language for Composing Interactions