In response to Kathryn, Kelvin, Lila, and a consensus evaluation by many – Interactivity can come in 3 levels: low, medium, and high. I wanted to further clarify this notion and perhaps touch on some functional advantages and disadvantages of each level through (yet another) abstract comparison.
The levels of interactivity can be analoguousized to various government systems. Albeit, with some surface generalizations. I don’t want to get all Vanity Fair with the complications that spur from intricate political analogies.
1. Low Level Interactivity: Fascism.
The artwork exists with almost no personal involvement. It involves low levels of connection, ownership, and requires no individual action other that submission. The artwork holds a dictatorship over the viewer, telling them what to see, without allowing any input outside of itself. This type of interactivity is one sided, imposing, and rather narcissistic. Low level interactivity can be overwhelmingly in your face, forcing ideas upon the viewer, much like a fascist government. The advantage is that when it exists, everyone will take notice of it. The disadvantage is that not everyone will enjoy it. If the viewer decides to not contribute, the artwork completely succeeds in silencing alternate views. (Just like when Hitler decided that Jews should be eliminated)
2. Mid-Level Interactivity: Communism.
The artwork exists with hybridized outside involvement. People and art work together, both parties contributing equally to the message. The disadvantage is it has tendencies towards mediocrity and half-sent messages. If the viewer decides to be passive and not contribute, its message will not be completely fulfilled. (Just like when communist governments distribute wealth equally, people are less motivated to work hard and contribute, rendering societal indifference.)
3. High-Level Interactivity: Democracy.
The artwork does not exist without interaction. It works in proportion with our involvement. Without personal investment, the artwork is nonexistant. This level of interactivity is welcoming, enticing, humble, and selfless. It has tendancies towards misfunction and underuse. If the viewer decides not to participate, the artwork fails entirely. It will contain no message. (Just like when we have a voter turn out of 0.1% democracy ceases to be valid.)
So while we can generalize interactivity into three categories, there is inevitably going to be some fluidity between each. Eg. instances where the level of interactivity is somewhere inbetween low and medium. An important thing to remember when trying to define anything: life is fluid, nothing is cut and dry. (Except for maybe the week-old Wonderbread in the kitchen. Boom ching! Hire me, Mr. Letterman.)
PS. By making this analogy, I accidently discovered the pros and cons of government systems could apply to interactivity.