As stated above, interactivity relates to contact between two or more parties: a created experience that engages viewers and is gauged by levels. These levels are low, medium, and high and are determined according to the extent and depth of the interaction between audiences.
While researching, I discovered two sources that forced me to think about interactivity in a new way. The first expert was experience designer, Nathan Shedroff. He explains that, “Interactivity is all around us and a deep part of our lives. It has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. It is merely new to electronic media.” When I think of interactivity, I picture games like The Sims and as Kelvin stated, Grand Theft Auto, of Nuit Blanche installations that I experienced a few weeks ago, and of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. These are all high-level examples of interactivity, the latest and greatest in interactive design. Shedroff brings up the idea that we are and have always been an interactive species, but the difference between past and present comes with the digital culture that has developed so quickly over the past two decades. To today’s society, the boom in technological interactivity seems shocking when we consider the course of decades and centuries past.
This notion ties into that of Joe Moran. He highlights the fact that interactivity can be traced back to St. Augustine’s description of perfect, instant, and clear communication through messenger angels. John Durham Peteres writes about this in his book Speaking into the Air: A history of the Idea of Communication. “Peters argued that the ideal of interactivity, the search for instantaneous contact with others, had a long and fraught history in western culture.” Peters, Moran, and Shedroff all agree that interactivity has a long history bound to the evolution of society.
Moran describes interactivity as “instantaneous contact.” This creation of simulated contact through digital media today is the natural continuation of the human desire to be interactive. Today, more than ever we are interacting with one another from every possible angle because it is our nature. The digital aspect of today is simply the newest extension to our interactivity, a tool that allows us to interact instantly.
This is why interactivity is so interesting. With the addition of digital media we are able to interact on a new level and are constantly reinventing the ways that we do so. Humans have abandoned low and medium levels of interaction and replaced them with a permanent level of high interactivity.
Peters, John D. Speaking into the Air: A History of the Idea of Communication. University Of Chicago Press, December 2001.