Thursday, January 24, 2013

Searching for definitions of "interactivity"

I have for a while been working on a paper about the notion of interactivity. It has been great fun but also quite challenging. First of all, doing some search of literature it is clear that even though interactivity is a core concept in my field of human-computer interaction  few have tried to define it carefully. I have started my examination by using a simple definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. In the dictionary two definitions are mentioned:
“ 1. mutually or reciprocally active, and 
2: involving the actions or input of a user; especially: of, relating to, or being a two-way electronic communication system (as a telephone, cable television, or a computer) that involves a user's orders (as for information or merchandise) or responses (as to a poll)”

This is a fairly good definition but for the purpose of HCI is can be developed in many ways, and that is what I am trying to do. For instance, it is clear to me that the notion of agency needs to be included, maybe also the concept of predictability. Anyway, at the moment I am trying to find already existing definitions. If you have any suggestions of well developed definitions of interactivity, please let me know.


Stoffel said...
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Stoffel said...

That seems to me a challenging quest! My 2 cents:
It is difficult not to immediately think of pragmatism and phenomenology, and work in (interaction) design that explicitly builds on those, i.e. that of Overbeeke and his colleagues. In particular Deckers ( develops an aspect of interactivity that I think encompasses agency (and I would say predictability has to do with perceived agency; it is not a separate concept). But these maybe do not define interactivity, they develop aspects of it.

For another more abstract inroad to 'interactivity', possibly Karan Barad's thougts on intra-action and may open up ways to define inter-activity.
Barad resonates with pragmatism as well, could a different philosophical stance shed another light?

Dag S said...

I struggled with the same question in my 2000 PhD "Understanding Interactivity". I ended up with a somewhat long definition:

"A first and necessary step to take before this question can be answered, is to define the
relations between the terms Interaction, Interactive, and Interactivity. An interaction involves at least two participants. In the context of human-computer interaction, the human is interacting with the computer. I define an artifact to be interactive if it allows for interaction. I further use the term interactivity to denote the interactive aspects of an artifact. The relation between interactivity and interactive consequently becomes the same as between radioactivity and radioactive: Uranium is radioactive; Madame Curie studied radioactivity. Modern
computers are interactive; The current study is about interactivity. Interactivity can both be used as a noun to signify a general phenomenon, or to signify a property, as in “the interactivity of the modern computer”. This is in the same manner as radioactivity can both refer to a general phenomenon, and be used as in “the radioactivity of Uranium”.


Erik Stolterman said...

Thanks for the comments.
Stoffel: you are not the first one who has suggested Barad. I have another phd student who is involved in her theories. I have so far managed to stay away :-)

Dag: Thanks, great comment. I like the parallel to radioactivity.