What does INTERACTIVITY even mean?

Going to a program defined by interactivity it is of the utmost importance to define interactivity itself.  Interactivity is a dialogue between two actors.  A cyclical process where one receives an input (listens), processes the input (thinks), and gives an output (responds).  That output becomes the input for the other actor and such the cyclical process begins.  All three stages on both ends must be successful to achieve a “good” level of interactivity.  

Something that came up in the reading that I found quite interesting is the difference between physical interactivity with interactivity.  Interactivity can also be mental but is that good enough?


Chris Crawford states that the thinking step is what differentiates talking about interactivity from talking about user interface. User interface places importance on speaking (output) and listening (input).  Most 360 videos could be defined as user interfaces and not interactive.  Where you look is the input and what is shown to you is the output.  There is no thinking step, no processing.    


There is a big discussion going on on what constitutes something as virtual reality and for me the key factor is interactivity. But as with almost everything it is  a spectrum,  and I cant’t say where you draw the line.  Looking around you with no change, not interactive. Looking around you to start/stop an action from happening.  Is that interactive? Maybe it’s interactive but not a “good” physical interaction? Looking in a particular direction to change the course of the story? Interactive.  Using your hands in a 360 environment to pick up, grow and shrink blocks before throwing them off into the distance. Great interaction? Bret Victor would at least consider that interactive.  In that kind of VR you use your hands as tools.  You “precision grip air”.

Crawford states that good interactive design merges form with function. For VR this is where the haptic controllers or body tracking comes in, because the tech is so new both the design and the function are clumsy. While crude, it still does a masterful job at  engaging us.  The first VR experience I did was Birdly.  I got strapped into a massage chair looking thing and had an Oculus put on my face.  Next thing I knew I was flying over the city of New York moving my hands as wings to manage the wind currents.  The real kicker in that experience is what really sold it to me was this little fan they put in front of my face.  Now I don’t know where that falls on the spectrum of interactivity.  I don’t think a fan is interactive at all.  But when your facedown flying over a city with goggles on your face the fan somehow convinced my brain that I was feeling wind and manipulating it.  There was an easy output and input but where is the processing? Does subconscious processing count? Was it even subconscious?


It’s funny to me that I signed up for an Interactive Telecommunications Program without really being sure what the first two words mean.  First week in I’m getting closer to getting a feel for what the first one can mean. Now…… telecommunications? Is all digital media telecommunication? Or is only interactive digital media? Where does the difference lay between telecommunication and technology?