Across the many fields concerned with interactivity, including information science, computer science, human-computer interaction, communication, and industrial design, there is little agreement over the meaning of the term interactivity.


Multiple views on interactivity exist. 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.

One body of research has made a strong distinction between interaction and interactivity. As the suffix ‘ity’ is used to form nouns that denote a quality or condition, this body of research has defined interactivity as the ‘quality or condition of interaction’. These researchers suggest that the distinction between interaction and interactivity is important since interaction may be present in any given setting, but the quality of the interaction varies from low and high.

Human communication is the basic example of interactive communication which involves two different processes:

  • Human to human interactivity and
  • Human to computer interactivity.

Human-Human interactivity is the communication between people. On the other hand, human to computer communication is the way that people communicate with new media. According to Rada Roy, the “Human Computer interaction model might consists of 4 main components which consist of HUMAN, COMPUTER, TASK ENVIRONMENT and MACHINE ENVIRONMENT. The two basic flows of information and control are assumed. The communication between people and computers; one must understand something about both and about the tasks which people perform with computers. A general model of human – computer interface emphasizes the flow of information and control at the human computer interface.” Human to Human interactivity consists of many conceptualizations which 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 mental states.

human computer interface

Media theorist Fernando A. Torres defined interactivity as, “a particular medium’s ability to facilitate the properties necessary in an ideal conversation” (“Towards A Universal Theory Of Media Interactivity: Developing A Proper Context,” 1995, “Definition of Interactivity,” para. 1). His research determined that interactivity should be defined by “how well a medium facilitates two-way communication rather than by the technology of the medium.”

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