Saturday, 13 October 2007

All in the mind?

As I'm not a psychologist I am well out of my comfort zone with this next attempt to understand interactivity but is interactivity dependent upon perception? I am an avid listener of Melvyn Bragg's Radio 4 programme In Our Time. One programme deals with perception and Bragg introduces the programme by saying "Perception is a tangled web of processes and so much of what we see, hear and touch is determined by our own expectations that it raises the question of whether we ever truly perceive what others do." Certainly within interactive design perception is crucial but is there an inherent problem when we attempt to make an interface intuitive that we cannot solve?

If we attempt to put into place enough visual cues and spend time perfecting the interactive loop (see image, adapted from a diagram by Bill Verplank of Stanford University) in order to make the interface usable for as many people as possible, are we still being kneecapped by a philosophical bullet. That is do we assume the user (insert your preferred nomenclature here) perceives the interface in the way we expect? Not exactly an earth-shatteringly original concern but when we consider that interactivity is more than just hand and eye, but also factors such as asynchronous and real-time communication, interchangeability of roles, modification of content within real-time etc. and tangibility affect the way that the perceived interactivity works.

The interactive loop, adapted from a diagram by Bill Verplank of Stanford University

It is therefore a little disconcerting for me to think that even taking into account semiology, typography and the psychology behind colour theory I may still need to consider deeper philosophical issues such as suggested by Spiro Kiousis in his 2002 paper "Interactivity: a concept explication". Kiousis proposes that interactivity, on an operational basis "is established by three factors: technological structure of the media used (e.g. speed, range, timing flexibility, and sensory complexity), characteristics of communication settings (e.g. third-order dependency and social presence), and individuals’ perceptions (e.g. proximity, perceived speed, sensory activation, and telepresence)." We already are aware that each individual has different ability in reading on screen and hand-eye coordination with input devices, but is there deeper issues we need to be aware of.

I am re-reading Kiousis' paper and will post again my own observations.


Kiousis, Spiro (2002)
Interactivity: a concept explication New Media & Society, SAGE Publications, Vol4(3):355–383, Pp 379

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