From Media Technology and Culture Change

The noun Interactivity is a derivative of the word "interact." To "interact," by definition, is to participate in a give and take relationship with another human being or piece of technology. Interactivity, in particular with regard to technology, is often gauged by our engagement with the shared subject of interaction. A lecture, for example, is not an interactive experience until auditors pose questions or give information back to the lecturer in some form.

Interactivity and Technology

Technology in our culture has begun to shift our understanding of interactivity more towards meaning a person's activity level in relation to the system they are using. Television, for example, requires a low level of interactivity by the user. However, as our concept of television expands beyond the medium into online forums and extensive fandom, the opportunities for interactivity treble, though they are not within the original medium.

Video games, specifically MMOs, are extremely popular largely because they require high levels of interactivity with the technology. This level of interactivity relates to the phenomenon of immersion in a virtual world (see Second Life for an example). Video games have long since been judged on how well they allow the player to interact with the storyworld. Traditionally, this interactivity has taken place mainly within the software--creating windows that shatter realistically, etc. But in November 2006, Nintendo launched their answer to the Playstation 3 and XBox 360--the Wii. The Wii introduced a revolutionary new controller that fundamentally changed how players interact with the story world. The Wiimote, as the controller is called, contains sophisticated gyroscopes and accelerometer, allowing users to control a character's movement by physically replicating them with the wiimote. Despite its inferior graphics and processing power, the wiimote has made the Wii immensely popular. However, while this particular interface could possibly facilitate more hands-on "interactivity," Wii games are not necessarily more interactive than games on a platform with a more standard controller or PC games. Interactivity is an act of give and take between user involvement with the hardware and the software. In many Wii games only a small set of actions can be performed in the actual gameplay while use of the interface is wildly diverse, and likewise games like ''Facade'' can have a very limited interface but an extreme amount of in-game freedom and a high level of interactivity. Interactivity also varies from genre to genre; Final Fantasy-style RPGs, for example, tend to have a low level of interactivity with the game environment and the course of the plot in favor of a rich and cinematic, pre-set storyline while MMORPGs are extremely interactive but sacrifice an organized plot, relying instead on user trends for development.

The interactivity of users within the Web 2.0 has popularized websites like Wikipedia and YouTube.

Interactivity as it relates to video games describes an environment that is both participatory and procedural. Ian Bogost notes that these rhetorics do not require a sophisticated interactivity, but they do benefit from them. Procedural rhetorics also relate to interactivity. Bogost states that the concept of Grand Theft Auto III as a fully interactive game is flawed, but in fact, the game is only interactive in that it requires us to fill in the gaps between the missing information from what we do and what we see.


Bogost p40-44.