“What are you studying again?” “Interactive media?” “What does that mean, anyway?”
I hear these questions daily as I work towards earning my master’s in interactive media. At the doctor’s office, in the bookstore – and especially at my parent’s house.
In true keeping with dynamic media messaging, my answers to these questions usually vary depending on my audience’s level of understanding or engagement.
“It’s kind of like the degree of influence and audience has on a medium, through conversation or user navigation.”
Or. “It’s anything from video editing to graphic design that allows input or direction from an audience.”
Or. “You know how you like to get on the computer and look up people on Facebook? Well, it’s kind of like that.”
Because it is a rapidly evolving field, interactivity has come to mean different things to different people. In its essence, interactivity in the digital age describes a user’s ability to choose and control the information he or she gathers from an interface. To some, this mean social networking, others, it is search engine rankings. It could be an exchange of information between a user and an interface, or a simple conversation between two users across town.
So who is a “user?” It is a member of the audience, a body of people that receives, adapts or influences content for any given medium. Even the notion of audience is changing daily. In the age of TV or radio, audiences were static and stationary publics that received strategic broadcasts. Today, an audience member is best defined as a participant, contributor or synthesizer of intentional information.
As these concepts continue to evolve, I will be on the forefront fielding questions and decoding the best that I can.
The best part about interactivity is that it will be whatever we make of it.