What they call interactivity

What they call interactivity
: I’m now watching a panel on what they call hereabouts interactivity.

It’s not what I call interactivity.

They think it’s about creating pages with buttons for people to push. Flash! Wow! They look at this medium as the curator of a kids’ museum looks at an exhibit: Let’s give them buttons to push; let’s make things light up; that’ll make them happy; that’ll involve them. The moderator of the panel calls it “story-telling.” She calls it a means for the audience to “learn in a hands-on way.” She calls it “news experience.” They show us maps that click and let you do a simulation to fix the traffic problem in Seattle.

Pardon me, but that’s news as masturbation: the reader goes off in a corner and plays with himself.

I don’t call that interactivity.

Interactivity is people interacting with people.

In this new medium that the audience owns, it’s about — pardon me for repeating myself — the people finally having a voice. It’s about us in big media listening.

News is a conversation.

I’m debating whether to say all this and make an ass of myself or just sit here and grumble to you.


: The MSNBC person showed off big Flash things she called “interactives.” A new noun, to me.

She said, “We directly challenge the audiencde to think about an issue.”

Man, that’s condescending!

: The PBS person, to her credit, said that what’s missing is real two-way interactivity. Yea!

She showed off her interactives on — cliche alert — fair-trade coffee, asylum, and gentrification.

: What turns these people on is Sim news. It’s not real news. It’s simulated for your safety.

: This is horse-to-water journalism. They want to get you to drink. But what if we don’t want to?

  • I was explaining this very same thing to a client last night… the erroneous belief (well, I think it’s erroneous, anyway) that if you put enough bells and whistles on a website somehow that allows you to call the experience “meaningful”.
    Hmmm… the last time I checked, “meaningful” meant connecting with another person, be it intellectual, fraternal, emotional, spiritual, sexual etc.
    “Connecting”, be it online or over a cup of coffee, requires one putting ‘one’s self’ in the proccess. Everything else is academic.
    Hmmm…. somebody spiked my drink again.

  • ken

    So did you pipe up or what?

  • Dishman

    Human interaction is why several hundred thousand people are paying $10/month to play MMORPGs. It’s why a large portion of the games coming out today have multiplayer modes.
    Humans are far more interesting to interact with, even if a machine is the medium through which they interact.

  • I don’t call that interactivity.
    Interactivity is people interacting with people.

    Bingo! Jeff, why are you attending and not holding this conference?

  • Jeff, very few innovations have come from online newspaper companies. We both know how traditional this category is and how much change is either driven from without (blogging is a GREAT example), or through fear of competitive threat (classified and job ads online would be in this category).

  • newsBlogger

    You are brilliant, sir.

  • If the wifi hadn’t gone down in the middle of this presentation, I would have encouraged your to ask you questions. It was a panel on multimedia stuff with polling. This is not interactivity, at least not the way I do it. The cool graphics were cool, okay, but if I can’t get to meaningful information, then who cares, in fact, those graphics just get in the way. I want to know what people think about information, why it means something to them, why they care. That, together with the framed information from the news outlet, are meaningful to me. I want to see all the contradictions and make up my mind about the information. Then the multimedia graphics are icing. But I need the cake first, otherwise it’s frustrating. Like this panel. I was very frustrated with it.

  • Jeff — I wish you would have asked a question at the ONA Interactivity panel and provoked some of the vaunted “conversation” with people that you pay such lip service to.
    Developments in interactive news are giving us fascinating clues about how some people like to learn about public issues.
    Sure, some will always prefer a traditional news story. Others may elect blogs. But for those who are engaged in hands-on news exercises, there’s more happening than “pushing a button.” They are working through choices and tradeoffs on issues, often the same way that elected officials do. Journalists are getting new story ideas from these interactions. But, interestingly, power brokers are paying attention, too.
    As a result, the exercises are delivering some momentum. Consider:
    A transit exercise in Seattle led to the regional transit board backing off a local sales tax hike, when users opposed that.
    When users of the Everett Herald’s clickable map “voted” for more face time with the city’ s waterfront, redevelopment officials ended up including bike trails and other citizens access points in the plans.
    When users played Minnesota Public Radio’s Budget Balancer game, a significant percentage ended up voting to raise news revenues rather than cut services — even though an earlier poll had people voting for no new taxes. And, they confessed, they surprised themselves by their actions.
    These “Sim games” did not end up where they started. They delivered entry points for people to register their voices on public issues — and the power brokers paid attention.
    I personally find it a relief that there was not a note of sanctimoniousness in their activities.
    And I’d venture to bet that these citizen-users would have very different opinions on who’s engaged in masturbating!