Levels of interactivity describe the degree of interaction and we’ve categorized them into low, medium and high, but what might be interesting to take a look at are elements we measure to determine these levels of interactivity.
In my research I came across an article(1) that provides several takes on the elements of interaction. Such things as:
- “Complexity of choice available” & “Level of control”:
What degree of choice or control do we have over the situation? Higher degrees of choice and control are associated with higher levels of interactivity.
- “Facilitation of interpersonal communication” :
To what degree are the participating parties in the interaction exchanging communication with each other? The more feedback between the participants in the interaction the higher the level of interactivity.
- “Direction of communication”:
In what way does the communication flow between parties within the interaction? With more participants, the flow of communication often becomes more intricate. Generally one way communication equates to low level interaction:
“…two-way communication is not the only type of experience related to interactivity, for many scholars highlight one to-many and many-to-many communication experiences as well – provided that some degree of feedback is involved (e.g. Hoffman and Novak, 1996; Rust and Oliver, 1994). It is also important to note that the communication flow can be both linear and non-linear (Goertz, 1995; Stromer-Galley, 2000). Of course, one-way communication is typically deemed low in interactivity.” (1) – (Kiousis, p.12)
In response to the notion that higher levels of interactivity will replace or make obsolete lower levels of interactivity I’d have to disagree. We are definitely moving towards a more interactive society, via new media and perhaps even in our philosophy of participation and this would be the reason for the increase in mid and high level interacton. However, while we are seeing a move toward participation, each level of interactivity has applications that suit situations better than others. It is not always imperative to provide an abundance of control or choice.
That being said, higher levels of interactivity are becoming more prevelant. As mentnioned, higher level interaction is changing areas such as art where art is no longer just viewed: it’s engaged. Giving the audience different options or the ability to control the outcome of the artwork blurs the distinction between author and audience. At such high levels of interaction where the audience actually creates and experiences the outcome the art is no longer the outcome; the interactions become the art themselves.
Mid level interaction has found various uses in the consumer world. Websites allow you to shop online for clothing by displaying the clothing and allowing you to modify and customize the look until you’re satisfied. Participants have the option to change the colour of their clothing, the size, on occasion the material. Users select the desired “outcome” or item of clothing they want navigating thought several variations of the same thing.
Tuning into CNN you’ll notice that the news has become interactive. We no longer simply watch the news, we report the news. The interaction is no longer linear or straight forward: meaningful discourse is exchanged not just back and forth, but between multiple participants all interacting at the same time.
I think the questions we have to ask ourselves now that we have moved towards a more interactive society, is when and where does each level of interactivity work? Often times interactive experiences enhance, but they can also subtract from an experience. When the author of an experience is no longer in control, the interaction can produce some rather unexpected outcomes. In addition the lack of control over a situation may lead to a lapse in coherence or organization of a experience. Using the right level of interactivity in a design, if any interactivity at all, is important to consider before assuming higher interactivity means better design.
(1) – Spiro Kiousis,”Interactivity: A Concept Explication”, New Media & Society 4.3 (2002)