Interactivity, taken from Mapbox.com

An annotated bibliography on interactivity (AFF601)

The relentless progress of time brings technological innovation with it. Through access and interactivity, the trend appears to be increasingly in favour of abandoning the older hierarchical models of representation and toward the allure of faceted classification and multi-access. While interactivity isn’t necessarily a new feature, the varieties and abilities of Web 2.0 make it a far reaching one. This ease of access leads to arguments among the academic community concerning just how much interaction the audience should have with the creative process- should there be a move toward ‘public’ models of academia? Or should academia remain in the realm of professional scholarly circles? From crowd sourcing to public collections the old order of monographs and analogue is becoming increasingly dated. Collected below are a variety of sources that collect and discuss the concept of interactivity, how it occasionally grinds against the older established forms of scholarship and ideas of how to evolve it further.

DeKanter, Nick. “Gaming Refines Interactivity for Learning.” Tech Trends Vol 49, issue 3 (2005), pp.26-31

“We see interactive video games as a complement to, not a replacement for, other teaching tools and methods.” As of the time that this piece was written, DeKanter notes that over half the population of the United States plays video games – that is quite a substantial audience. He continues that his team “believe Making History [his own historical project] and future games of this type will bridge the widening gap between the digital teenager and the traditions of bricks-and-mortar classroom teaching.” DeKanter’s argument for the advantage of video games compliments Eric Eve’s article, both highlight the increasing trend of faceted classification – a video game may have one overarching theme but the player’s actions allow them to access it from a multitude of ways. Intriguingly, DeKanter approaches the concept of interactivity from a reverse perspective to the academics, that digital projects need to be more consumer friendly rather than academically constructed.

Eve, Eric. All Hope Abandon: Biblical Text and Interactive Fiction. (2007) Web
(Accessed on 23/11/14)

Eve approaches the concept of interactivity from a fresh view point – that of interactive fiction or text based adventure games using the example of All Hope Abandon, a biblical text adventure. Eve notes that the game makes assumptions of the behalf of the player, with All Hope Abandon the player inhabits an avatar who is assumed to be a Biblical Scholar, yet the majority of the audience may not be. Initially implementing footnoting into the world, the developer soon learned that a fresh (think command) “approach also opens up further educational potential for the game; those players can learn quite a lot about the biblical text and scholarly approaches to it if they are so minded, but none is compelled to do so, though hopefully the context of the game makes it an enjoyable way to learn.” Eve’s article highlights the difficulty associated with creating interactive and educational processes to intrigue audiences. It shows the public model or the Borderlands of interactivity straddle a difficult line of having to appeal to a wide audience and yet remain functional and traditional in the eyes of academics.

Fornäs, Johan, Klein, Kajsa, Ladendorf, Martina, Sundén, Jenny. “Digital Borderlands: Cultural Studies of Identity and Interactivity on the Internet.” New York, Peter Lang Publishing (2002)

This reading introduces a remarkable term: Digital Borderlands. This term implies that the world of digital interactivity is akin a new frontier being colonised. This frontier or borderland is made up of three distinctions: “free fields, intellectual free zones or third spaces of refuge in between established closures. Second, as battlefields, fields of fighting contradiction on the very borderline where struggles take place. Third, as cultivation fields, fields of hybridizing bricolage construction in the overlap between what is elsewhere separated.” This concept informs the overlaying argument that conflict arises from the introduction of new methods, similar to the taming of the American frontier throughout the 19th century.

Hand, Martin. “Making Digital Cultures: Access, Interactivity and Authenticity.” Surray, Ashgate Publishing LTD, (2012)

“It [this book] is often about the rather uneasy alliances between analogue and digital objects, practices and processes, and how we might understand this from both the lofty heights of theory and the grounded practices of those directly engaged with taking the digital turn.” Hand’s book delves into the issues of access, interactivity and authenticity from the cyberpace of the 1990s to the advent of web 2.0 in tremendous detail, describing the cyclical argument that digital sources are “dumbing down” or lead to the “banalisation” of academia with “information overload.” Furthermore, Hand addresses digital terminology such as the empowerment and democratization that interactivity brings, that audiences are more than ever capable of self learning. Hand’s discussion simultaneously provides a close reading of these various trends while retaining enough of a distant critical eye to allow the reader’s own opinion to formulate, rather than simply repeat Hand’s.

Hosseini, Motahereh, Zamanian, Mostafa. “The position of interactivity in electronic education and learning system.” Academia Arena, Vol.6, no.4 (2014) pp.1-5

The authors approach the concept of e-training audiences, a new trend that “doesn’t need the presence of the student in the scheduled class.” They go on to state that “Interactivity is a mutual connection which both the sender and receiver receive the information and provide a feedback through it.” The modernisation of technology such as E-learning encourages a form of triple interactivity – student-student, student-professor and student-content. In essence, interactivity provides an asynchronous form of education to students in a manner somewhat similar to the advantages of multi-faceted classification. “Interactivities in virtual environment is not restricted to walls of the classes, the books of one or some libraries and a limited number of teachers and students, it provides a class with the extent of the virtual boundless space without the constraints of times and space for the student.”


Levin, Ilya. “Academic Education in Era of Digital Culture.” (2013) Web
(Accessed on 20/11/14)

Levin describes the “postindustrial academic educational system” existing within the realms of social media. The paper goes on to describe the Personal Identity On-Line (Or PIO). “The concept of PIO personifies a specific characteristic of an individual’s behavior in a network environment, which manifests itself in a unique opportunity to form the individual’s identity differently from that in reality.” This trend has been observed with video game avatar creators but also in Digital Humanity projects (such as Letters of 1916) where the simple act of choosing the username allows the individual to hide behind a layer of anonymity or adopt a persona. This concept highlights a potential fear of increased interaction with the audience as there is little to no way of activity knowing who these individuals are.

Reading, Anne. “Digital Interactivity in public memory institutions: the uses of new technologies in Holocaust Museums.” Media Culture and Society, vol 23, no.1 (2003) pp.67-85

Reading uses empirical analysis to note the changes made to interactivity. Concerning the use of the Holocaust as her example Reading quotes Jurgen Habermas: “Auschwitz has changed the basis for the continuity of the conditions of life within history (1989: 251-2).” In essence, Reading is using the example of a subject matter that the vast majority of people, academics or not, can claim to have a substantial degree of knowledge on – it exists as public history without needing to be claimed as such. More so than any other historical incident, the Holocaust is very much informed by memory, that the “actions taken by those involved – as victims, perpetrators, rescuers and bystanders – were influenced by socially inherited myths, ideas and cultural forms.” Thus Reading contemplates the purpose of museums as cultural memory institutions and how interactivity can “allow for artefacts to be seen from a variety of perspectives and contexts, unrestricted by location within an exhibition narrative.” Reading’s article can be used to augment the overarching argument through her analysis of the success of interactivity in dispelling some commonly held myths and challenging cultural memory.

Robinson, John. “Being Undisciplined: Transgressions and intersections in academia and beyond.” Futures, Vol 40, Issue 1 (2008) pp. 70-86

Robinson deals with the concept of the prefix that accompanies the word disciplinary, that it’s the interpretation of this prefix that leads to the cyclical argument described by Martin Hand. “The art of problem-based interdisciplinary lies in the choice of problems that will be both academically and socially fruitful. Too heavy emphasis on the former leads to research that may successfully address problems within a particular field of study and make a contribution to the literature but that are of limited value or interest beyond the academy. Too much emphasis on the latter leads to work that is indistinguishable from consulting or pure advocacy work.”

Thayer, Alexander, Lee, Charlotte P, Hwang, Linda H, Sales, Heidi, Sen, Pausali, Dalal, Ninad. “The Imposition and Superimposition of Digital Reading Technology: The Academic Potential of E-Readers.” (2011) Web
(Accessed on 21/11/14)

This article takes a look at the technology that enables interaction rather than the act itself, namely E-readers. The findings contained within this report highlight an intriguing similarity to the web based development of technology; the audience’s mindset still lingers on the analogue. Through substituting a variety of readings with e-readers, the researchers discovered that “students in our study struggled, and sometimes succeeded, at integrating the e-reader into their academic reading practices.” These findings reinforce the borderlands theory put forth by Ladendorf et al – it appears that technologically at least, the advancement of the field and the development of interactivity is engaged in the battlefield of fighting contradiction.

Zimmerman, Eric. “Narrative, Interactivity, Play and Games: Four Naughty Concepts in need of Discipline.” First Person (2004) pp.154-164

Zimmerman issues a bold statement regarding how the public is frustrated; “Frustration with the lack of cultural sophistication of the gaming industry; frustration with the limitations of current technology; frustration with a lack of critical theory for properly understanding the medium.” Perhaps it is this frustration that some academic circles focus against the rise of a new field that they do not understand. Regarding interactivity, Zimmerman deems that “interactivity can occur on a cultural level.” Perhaps this explains why museums and other public history and remembrance locations are keen to utilise interactive means to engage their audience and engage with them on a cultural level.

Leave a Reply