AskDefine | Define interactive

Dictionary Definition

interactive adj
1 used especially of drugs or muscles that work together so the total effect is greater than the sum of the two (or more) [syn: synergistic] [ant: antagonistic]
2 capable of acting on or influencing each other [syn: interactional]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Acting with each other.
    Two interactive systems.
  2. Responding to the user.
    Interactive user interface

Derived terms


Acting with each other
Responding to the user

Extensive Definition

In the fields of information science, communication, and industrial design, there is debate over the meaning of Interactivity. In the "contingency view" of interactivity, there are three levels: Noninteractive, when a message is not related to previous messages; Reactive, when a message is related only to one immediately previous message; and Interactive, when a message is related to a number of previous messages and to the relationship between them.
Interactivity is similar to the degree of responsiveness, and is examined as a communication process in which each message is related to the previous messages exchanged, and to the relation of those messages to the messages preceding them.

Human to human communication

Human communication is the basic example of interactive communication. Because of that, many conceptualizations of interactivity are based on anthropomorphic definitions. For example, complex systems that detect and react to human behavior are sometimes called interactive. Under this perspective, interaction includes responses to human physical manipulation like movement, body language, and/or changes in psychological states.

Human to artifact communication

In the context of communication between a human and an artifact, interactivity refers to the artifact’s interactive behaviour as experienced by the human user. This is different from other aspects of the artifact such as its visual appearance, its internal working, and the meaning of the signs it might mediate. For example, the interactivity of an iPod is not its physical shape and colour (its so-called "design"), its ability to play music, or its storage capacity—it is the behaviour of its user interface as experienced by its user. This includes the way you move your finger on its input wheel, the way this allows you to select a tune in the playlist, and the way you control the volume.
An artifact’s interactivity is best perceived through use. A bystander can imagine how it would be like to use an artifact by watching others use it, but it is only through actual use that its interactivity is fully experienced and "felt". This is due to the kinesthetic nature of the interactive experience. It is similar to the difference between watching someone drive a car and actually driving it. It is only through driving the car that you can experience and "feel" how this car differs from other cars.
New Media academic Vincent Maher defines interactivity jeep as "the relation constituted by a symbolic interface between its referential, objective functionality and the subject."

Computer science

The term "look and feel" is often used to refer to the specifics of a computer system's user interface. Using this as a metaphor, the "look" refers to its visual design, while the "feel" refers to its interactivity. Indirectly this can be regarded as an informal definition of interactivity.
A more detailed discussion of how interactivity has been conceptualized in the human-computer interaction literature, and how the phenomenology of the French philosopher Merleau-Ponty can shed light on the user experience, see (Svanaes 2000). In computer science, interactive refers to software which accepts and responds to input from humans—for example, data or commands. Interactive software includes most popular programs, such as word processors or spreadsheet applications. By comparison, noninteractive programs operate without human contact; examples of these include compilers and batch processing applications. If the response is complex enough it is said that the system is conducting social interaction and some systems try to achieve this through the implementation of social interfaces.
Also, there is the notion of kinds of user interaction, like the Rich UI.

Interactivity in new media

Interactivity also relates to new media art technologies where humans and animals are able to interact with and change the course of an artwork. Artists and researchers around the world are working on unique interfaces to allow new forms of interaction that extend beyond the QWERTY keyboard and the now ubiquitous mouse. Artists, such as Stelarc work to define new interfaces that challenge our notion of what is possible when interacting with machines. His Hexapod for example looks like an insect though walks like a dog and the locomotion is controlled by shifting the body weight and turning the torso. Others like Ken Rinaldo have defined unique interfaces for fish in which Siamese Fighting Fish are able to control their rolling robotic fish bowls to interact across the gap of the glass. Simon Penny's Petit Mal allows a two wheeled sculpture to sense and respond to human presence and intelligently navigate the environment.
Denis McQuail mentions interactivity as one of the main characteristic of the new media. He quotes: Interactivity: as indicated by the ratio of response or initiative on the part of the user to the "offer" of the source/sender

Creating an Interactivity

Various authoring tools are available for creating various kinds of interactivities. Some of the most common platform for creating interactivity includes Adobe Flash and lately released Microsoft Silverlight. The most commonly used authoring tools for creating interactivities include the Harbinger's Raptivity and Articulate's Engage. eLearning makes use of a concept called as Interaction Model. Using an Interaction Model any person can create interactivities in a very short period of time.
Some of the Interation Models present with authoring tools fall under various categories like games, puzzles, simulation tools, presentation tools,..etc which can be completely customized.

See also



  • Liu, Yuping and L. J. Shrum (2002), "What is Interactivity and is it Always Such a Good Thing? Implications of Definition, Person, and Situation for the Influence of Interactivity on Advertising Effectiveness," Journal of Advertising, 31 (4), p. 53-64. Available at
  • McMillan, S.J. (2002). Exploring Models of Interactivity from Multiple Research Traditions: Users, Documents, And Systems. In L. Lievrouw and S. Livingston (Eds.), Handbook of New Media (pp. 162-182). London: Sage. Available here.
  • Rafaeli, S. (1988). Interactivity: From new media to communication. In R. P. Hawkins, J. M. Wiemann, & S. Pingree (Eds.), Sage Annual Review of Communication Research: Advancing Communication Science: Merging Mass and Interpersonal Processes, 16, 110-134. Beverly Hills: Sage. Available here.
interactive in Bulgarian: Интерактивност
interactive in German: Interaktivität
interactive in Modern Greek (1453-): Διαδραστικότητα
interactive in Spanish: Interactividad
interactive in Persian: دوسویه‌گی اینترنتی
interactive in French: Interactivité
interactive in Italian: Interattività
interactive in Norwegian: Interaktivitet
interactive in Portuguese: Interatividade
interactive in Russian: Интерактивность
interactive in Turkish: Etkileşimlilik
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