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Interactivity is still under continuous debates over its meaning. There are several conceptual views of interactivity, one of the most acceptable have being the contingency view that examine interactivity as process related variable. According to this view,

Interactivity is similar to the degree of responsiveness, and 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. Sheizaf Rafaeli, one of the cited authors regarding Interactivity defined Interactivity as "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, 1988).

This view defines three basic levels of interactivity:

  • Non-Interactive - when a message is not related to previous messages
  • Reactive - when a message is related only to one immediately previous message
  • Interactive - when a message is related to a number of previous messages and to the relationship between them.

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.

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.

See also

Interactivity also relates to new media teachnologies where humans are now able to intereact with the lastest technologies around them including the red button on the television and also being able to choose certain camera angles as well as creating web blogs and podcasts etc.


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.
See Sheizaf Rafaeli's home page (

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