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What is interactivity?

September 18, 2017

Reading Note <The art of interactive design>

 

The term interactivity is overused and underunderstood. I choose to define it in terms of a conversation: a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak. The quality of the interaction depends on the quality of each of the subtasks (listening, thinking, and speaking). And many things commonly held to be interactive are not.

 

I suppose we could replace listen, think, and speak with input, process, and output.

 

Reaction & Interaction

 

Degrees of Interactivity: We tend to think of interactivity as a Boolean property (either you have it or you don’t) like virginity. But why not think of interactivity as a continuous variable with relative measures, more like our weight? In other words, we might speak of interactivity as high, moderate, low, or even zero, thus solving our problem with the subjective nature of interactivity. By using such measures, rather than the simple either/or proposition, we make it possible to accept that anything can be interactive and simply discuss the degree of interactivity subjectively. This, in turn, gives us a happier solution to the refrigerator challenge: The refrigerator does indeed interact with the user, but it does so at a low level.

 

How to tell High & Low interactivity: To interact well, both actors in a conversation must perform all three steps (lis- tening, thinking, and speaking) well. Doing a good job with one of the three steps does not compensate for a bad job with the other two. In each of the pre- ceding examples, the failed conversationalist performed two of the three jobs well but failed with the third, and that one failure was enough to botch the entire conversation.

 

To interact well, both actors in a conversation must perform all three steps (listening, thinking, and speaking) well. Doing a good job with one of the three steps does not compensate for a bad job with the other two. In each of the pre- ceding examples, the failed conversationalist performed two of the three jobs well but failed with the third, and that one failure was enough to botch the entire conversation.

 

Interactivity is important for designers because it is a new and revolutionary communication medium, yet a tried and true way to learn. Interactive communication is superior to conventional, one-way communication. Interactivity is also the computer’s intrinsic competitive advantage. For artists, interactivity represents an exciting and unexplored field of effort.

 

Human-to-human conversations are driven by the differences in knowledge or opinion of the conversers. While such differences may seem huge, they pale in comparison to the difference between human and computer, because the computer’s thought processes are stupendously different from a human’s. We can grasp emotional situations that a computer could never comprehend; the computer can multiply two numbers faster than we can read them.

 

Interactivity is superior to all other forms of human expression in one way: it engages the human mind more powerfully than any other form of expression. When we truly interact with someone or something, we are truly engaged.

In contrast, non-interactive forms of expression do not hold our attention so tenaciously.

My Thoughts

 

Movies, Dancing, reading books are not interactive. But If we make movies, music and book listen, think and speak, they can be interactive. So actually many common activities in our daily can be transformed into interactive. Besides, two actors can be both human, both non-human, one human and one non-human. If we dig deep into every word in the definition of interactivity, we can find a lot of interesting ideas.

 

Sometimes I think why we should add interactivity, if someone really enjoys reacting but not interacting between two actors. The author said the uniqueness of interactivity is to make us more engaged in an activity. Then I think whether or not add interactivity and how much interactivity depends on the activity. 

 

Does more interactivity mean better? The author thinks of interactivity as a continuous variable rather than a boolean one. I totally agree with this opinion. But I don't think more interactivity mean better experience. 

 

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