Class discussion on Interactivity

Class discussion on Interactivity


“Understanding interactivity and how it works is fundamental to understanding the likely success of internet services” 


When looking at interactivity though, it is important to find a definition for the term.


Rafaeli (1988: 111) defines interactivity as going beyond simple one-way ‘action’ or two-way ‘reaction’ that may not be truly responsive.  His definition is:


Interactivity is an expression of the extent that in a given series of communication exchanges, any third (or later) transmission (or message) is related to the degree to which previous exchanges referred to even earlier transmissions.


Rafaeli suggests a model with three levels of interactivity


  • two-way non-interactive communication
  • reactive or quasiinteractive communication
  • fully interactive communication


Kawamoto says interactivity is “the process of engaging active human or machine participation in the process of information seeking and information sharing” (2003: 4).


Chung (2008) says that interactivity allows the reader to become more involved in the news. Online news affords the reader more control and bigger choice – something that’s lacking in traditional media.


Chung then looks at the numerous definitions of interactivity:


Medium interactivity

Also known as user-to-system/document or content interactivity is interactive communication between users and technology that is based on the nature of the technology itself and what the technology allows users to do.


Human interactivity

Also known as user-to-user or interpersonal interactivity, on the other hand, is communication between two or more users that takes place through a communication channel.


Stromer-Galley (2007) considers human interactivity to be more interactive than medium interactivity.


Human interactivity is the difference between traditional news and online news in that the audience can participate through interpersonal communication.


Chung did a study on the use of interactivity that brought few surprises. People who are comfortable on the net, she found, are also the same people that are more inclined to participate on the net. They are the people that generally read more (including traditional media). One can also assume that they are more media savvy. In other words they are the people that participate, are more involved and more interested in their surroundings.


Although Chung’s study has some inherent flaws as pointed out by the author herself she finds that to deliver quality news reporting to build credibility of the news organization and subsequently encourage audiences to actively participate in the online news is of critical importance.


And although the study provides somewhat discouraging results to the initial enthusiasm about online news and the application of interactivity through the adoption of interactive features, news organisations that are sincerely interested in communicating with their news audiences should not discard their efforts in applying interactivity, she says.


David Domingo (2008) believes that the traditional training of journalists and the way they are used (or conditioned) to operate stand in their way of becoming truly interactive.


He believes interactivity to be the power of the user of a medium to control the communication flow or even alter the message sent by the producer.


And although journalists subscribe to the notion of interactivity the reality shows differently. This relates back to the traditional role of the journalist which many can’t seem to shake off or adapt to.


Practical realities in the newsroom also play a role. The online journalist’s first priority is to present to their readers the news as quickly as possible and with the restraint of limited resources often leave little time to actively engage with their readers.


Fact is that interactivity has become an integral part of online news. Readers aren’t content to be mere spectators anymore. They have become active participants that want their voices to be heard. As Chung points out quality journalism is crucial. In the internet age this rings even more true, where thousands of readers are quick to jump at any mistakes or to add their two cents worth.


1 Comment »

  1. gloriae said

    Interactivity is out there whether journalists use it or not – it is afterall, one of the three core characteristsics of the web. But a mind shift is certainly needed if journalists are to tap into the advantages that interactivity holds for journalism. Like you rightfully put it: interactivity enables people to be interactive participants in the news making process, people want their voices to be heard. If journalists are to listen to their users, journalism could be better. Yet there are some challenges: time constraints; our traditional culture conditioning; logistical, training and a fuller understanding as to why we should harness interactivity on our news sites.

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