Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interactivity drives interaction. Get the difference?

Is it interaction or interactivity? A lot of people use the two terms interchangeably. In this post, let's explore the subtle difference between the two.

Interaction is mutual action between at least two participants. For example, computer software and its user can have interaction.

Some interactions are trivial, for example, click on a button. Some interactions are non-trivial, for example, walk along a street and look around the houses using Google Map.

Any artifact (such as a piece of software) is interactive if it allows for interaction. For example, the digger game is interactive because it allows for interaction.

Interactivity is the property of an artifact that allows for interaction. Thus, an online discussion forum software has interactivity, because it allows for interaction between users.

Over time, the word interactivity has also come to describe a software artifact that allows non-trivial interaction. For example, an online flip-book is an interactivity. Its user can turn the pages like a real book, go to any page directly, close the book and so forth.

Which means, the flip-book not only has interactivity, but it is an interactivity. Interactivity, then, is not just a property, but also an artifact possessing the property.

Therefore, we can use its plural to denote many artifacts that exhibit interactive behavior. For example, a web page that contains a flip-book and a mind-map can be said to have two interactivities in it.

Your spell-checker might complain about interactivities, but there is a way out. I have already added the word to my dictionary, and so can you.

There is a simple way to remember all this: Interactivity drives interaction.

You are welcome to explore the definitions using the interactive glossary in this blog.