What Is Interactivity?

   This topic is generally the concept of interactivity by Aaron Smuts. He attempt to develop a strong definition of “interactivity” so that general audience would not mistaken for interactivity from related but in compatible concepts. His methods show clearly on how the term is being used.

   In his writings, he mentioned that interactivity in term of art can be interactive or non-interactive. In order to be interactive, the subject must respond in a way that is controllable or in random. While forming interaction, he found flaws with the 5 theories of interactivity from:
(1) Terrence Rafferty’s control theory,
(2) Marie-Laure Ryan’s making use theory,
(3) David Saltz’s input/output theory,
(4) Dominic Mclv er Lopes’s modifiable structure theory, and
(5) Janet Murray’s procedural/ participatory theory.

Rafferty’s concept is that the subject has full control of the object. For instance, choosing an alternate ending in a movie of a DVD rather than a linear styled VCR. Smuts disagreed that there’s no interaction in the matter, but simply just having control.

Ryan’s theory by using the Venn diagram, as it shows interactivity in fractions of having electronic, “ergodic” and interactive. Smuts pointed out that she was just making use of everything being interactive. There was no difference between using a remote control to flip through channels than to flip through a closet. She failed to show a definite understanding of the term.

Saltz uses the theory of computing where 3 of the following events must occur:
1) Inputing data like any behavior then
2) Outputing it digitally in the computer, and last
3) Translate it back into the real world for people to comprehend

However, there was some similarity with Rafferty’s theory. Saltz then takes up a 2nd degree of interactivity – hypertext fiction. Smuts find that giving control to the viewer over visual and audio does not give clear motive whether it is to be interactive or non-interactive. It was too vague, and only gives a clear description on how the computer works by translating input/output.

Modifiable Structure Theory
Lope’s concept is merely modifiable idea from the control & input/output theory as told by Smuts. For instance, adding colour or texture to one visual or audio. However, it was overstated, and weak due to most of the content are in relevant to aesthetics appreciation.

Procedural/ Participatory Theory
Janet Murray claims that in interactivity there should be procedural and participatory. The terms with procedural, Smuts objects that Murray uses procedural programming languages as interrelated procedures that can invoke one another which is like a mathematical function that waits for input. In a way this process have certain interactivity, but Smuts states that the term procedural would only confuse others. On the other hand, Smuts agrees with the term participatory as it reveals an important aspect of interactivity. However, still it lacks of adequate explanation as we can cooperate with each other through participation to show interactivity, or we can too have interactivity with a screen that responses.

Aaron Smuts’s definition of interactivity was basically having 2 basic requirement, which is something is interactive for an individual if it responds in a way that is not 
(1) radically random or 
(2) almost completely controllable

For the first concept, he mentioned on how John Cage’s music aggregated the audience, but there was no interactivity, that was merely an “interactive art”. He compares that with a improvisational jazz, whereby the player give response with each other.

Besides that, he talked about the degree of control in video games. For instance, playing pac-man does not have interactivity simply because once the player have mastered the mechanics of the game, he simply does not have to think. He insist that the player himself should not have full control over the game. It needs to have more freedom of the outcome and behavior.


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