Posts Tagged ‘ Interactive Media ’

The many different shades of interactivity


Too often companies see interactive media in starkly black and white terms. They equate having a Facebook page, Twitter stream and animated website with automatic interactivity.

But there are more colorful shades at work here. The things listed above can exist in a form absent of interactivity; merely one-way communications vehicles that deliver a steady flow of information with little if any user input. They then become no more than digitized versions of print brochures.

But as we all know, such tools can also lead to robust levels of two-way communication. Sometimes they even facilitate a dialogue between producer and consumer, where the audience not only views but actively shapes the product.

How to tell the difference? The diagram posted above is designed with that in mind. It’s the creation of myself and four fellow classmates for an assignment on audience analysis. The five of us identified some key questions in determining whether a site was static, interactive or dialogic.

The latter of these three categories represents the most robust form of communications, where the user not only has navigational choice but also a creative voice in shaping the content. Their feedback isn’t just posted and heard but acted upon. They share ideas with other users and form communities that come to define the site itself.

The concept of the Digital Dialogue Diagram is simple. Answer each question about your own site and put a dot in the corresponding section on the wheel. At the end you have a path from the center to the edge that visibly represents the kind of interactivity on your site. It’s easy to see how the path would change with different answers, since the first choice always represents “static,” the second “interactive” and the third “dialogic.”

This is meant as an evaluation tool for companies and organizations wanting closer analysis on their site. There are different pros and cons for all three types depending on your communication strategy. What’s important is recognizing the differences and where you fall along the spectrum and its many shades of interactivity.


Universal access: the future of the digital divide

The pace of technological progress is constant, but not necessarily equal.

While more than a billion people worldwide have plugged into the possibilities of the Internet during the past decade, billions more remain disconnected, prevented by socioeconomic or educational barriers from experiencing the most recent advances. For some it’s a lack of infrastructure or resources to log online, while many others with all the tools to access the Internet fail to derive the benefits, harmed by a combination of inferior computer knowledge and a tech industry disinterested in designing programs and products catering to their needs.

The result is what has been termed “The Digital Divide,” a gap with profound influence on those left behind as the rest of the world accelerates into a digital age. The importance of bridging the gap has driven many worthwhile initiatives to provide laptops and Internet access in all school systems or to train displaced workers in computers. But the divide is a moving target. While studies show that the percentage of people with broadband Internet access is rapidly increasing, particularly in developing countries, many are tapping into the Internet without an adequate understanding on how it can lift them out of poverty and into the knowledge economy. Even in the U.S., where access to the Internet is widespread, a just released report from the Communications Workers of America shows that the average download speed varies dramatically by region with only 38 percent of rural residents subscribing to broadband, limiting the ability of some to leverage the web’s full potential. All the while, others who have long enjoyed technological resources are moving on to Web 2.0 and interactive mediums that will prove key in future opportunities for employment.

The purpose of my research project this semester is to look not just at how this divide exists today but whether it will exist in the future given the rapid development of easily accessible and affordable Internet applications. Will the devices and technologies ubiquitous in the society of the coming decades level the playing field, or will certain demographic groups be unable to adapt and utilize each new technology coming online? Will all youth raised in the current age grow up with the understanding of how to navigate the Internet, or will the training and knowledge needed to capitalize on future technology be exclusive to those with access to the best schools and teachers? What industries are tailoring their services and products for mass use across former knowledge and financial barriers, and which will only derive benefit to the previously initiated? Can innovations created for audiences in the developed world still be integrated into third-world cultures in a manner that can lift those communities out of poverty?

My research will examine current usage trends for various aspects of Web 2.0 to predict which are headed to universal accessibility and which will remain reserved for select groups. It will cite experts on the developments of Web 3.0 to determine whether the seamless blend of the virtual and physical worlds could be universally applied to all societies. It will look at ongoing initiatives to bridge the digital divide, efforts undertaken by a range of multi-national corporations such as Nokia Siemens Networks, public entities like the United Nations and non-profit organizations such as the Investor Group Against Digital Divide. It will evaluate the $7.2 billion earmarked in the U.S. federal stimulus package for increasing broadband access. The report will assess the results of these initiatives and what new efforts on the horizon are likely to yield.

The findings will be presented in a dynamic, interactive format that shows how widespread, or narrow, various technologies will permeate across different ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Viewers will be able to navigate through a selection of current and developing Internet technologies and see which are on the path to becoming universally accessible, and which still require more effort to ensure no one misses out on the tremendous opportunities offered by the Internet of the future.