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Interactivity, Concept of

W. Russell Neuman


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Interactivity is a relatively new, evolving, and still elusive concept in the study of communication, most frequently associated with new digital media technologies (→  Digital Media, History of ). The concept's elusiveness may result from the common use of the term to identify a loosely defined bundle of attributes rather than a single attribute or phenomenon. At its core, interactivity refers to the phenomenon of mutual adaptation, usually between a communication medium such as the Internet or a video game and a human user of that medium. A seminal, if somewhat technical, definition of interactivity was offered by Rafaeli (1988 , 111): “Formally stated, 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.” The key element is responsiveness – what one says or does depends on another – a notion clearly rooted in human face-to-face conversation. However, given the rich possibilities of human–machine communication, Rafaeli warned that a model narrowly based on dyadic human conversation would be too simplistic and reductive. Interactivity, to Rafaeli, is a quintessential concept regarding the nature of communication. In his original account of interactivity, Rafaeli considered the term “intuitively ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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