PComp - Week 1

14 Sep 2016
courses, documentation, pcomp

I agree with Crawford’s definition of interactivity “a cyclic process in which two actors alternately listen, think, and speak,” and especially with his qualifiers of “high, moderate, low, or even zero” interactivity. I would even add two additional qualifiers - direct and indirect interactivity. Direct activity meaning the two actors converse with each other without any third parties, and indirect interactivity meaning that the two actors converse but either through a third party or based on inputs from a third party.

Indirect interactivity is often seen in books and film. The text asserts that films are not interactive and gives the example of a B horror film where the protagonist unwittingly walks into a perilous situation, the viewer thinks “don’t go in there!” but alas, the protagonist ignores the viewer and walks in anyway. I would argue that when the protagonist walks into the perilous situation, viewers are cued to think “don’t go in there!” because that’s the trope of B horror movies. There is an indirect interaction with a third party (past horror films) that the director is using to provoke a certain response from the viewer, and, more importantly, cue the viewer to expect a certain outcome. At this point in the movie, I’m might also be thinking, “don’t go in there because that’s the script every other horror movie and I want to see something different happen.” So, when in the next scene, the protagonist decides to flee rather than “go in there,” the director has indirectly interacted with me. In other words, both the viewer and the director are familiar with the “don’t go in there” movie trope, and having set up the trope and elicited that response in the viewer, the director responds to the viewer’s expectation by having the protagonist flee rather than walk into a perilous situation.

Good works of physical interaction are appropriately matched to level of need for interactivity. Sometimes high interactivity is required and other times low interactivity is the best option. For example, I was recently on a road trip and a fold out map was invaluable. There was virtually no interaction - I open the map, find where I am and where I want to go, and then calculate the best route. I ended up using the print map so frequently because the Google Maps app on my phone was doing this thing where every time I opened the app it would recalibrate the directions based on my current location and then zoom out to show the full-trip view. This was too much interaction! When I opened the app it was because I was about to make a turn and needed a quick, zoomed-in image of my route. Instead, I had to wait while the app calculated by location, recalibrate the route, then displayed the new route.

Given my I have a very inclusive concept of interactivity, I don’t think there are many examples of digital technology that are not interactive. One examples would be daemons, the background processes that help computers run efficiently. Another would be a basic digital clock, for instance the large one in Union Square. It fulfills its basic purpose of telling the time but it doesn’t interact with the user in any way besides communication the time.

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