Interaction - LEVEL I

Interaction plays across a wide range of meanings and options that range from real world face-to-face, person-to-person talking and competitive games of all types to digital world that range from slide presentations and question asking to the complex world of video games. Interaction also has a deeper meaning about the nature of interaction itself. When two entities or objects come in contact with each other their interaction may create both internal or external change or neither. When things run into each other, the outcome is change or not. Those things include the interaction of people and books, users and web pages, organisms, chemicals and objects. When an interaction creates change, the change has much to do with the frequency and the depth of the interaction, but not always. Sometimes the tiniest vibration leads to a cascade of events that yields earth shattering change. That's the peculiar discovery about interaction and elements that change in interaction with each other. Interaction can eliminate predictability which is the world in which we live. The Internet and its Web tools have become the most powerful force yet available for the interaction of people and ideas. New ways to communicate and interact constantly flow from the creativity those using the Net environment. These ideas explore some of the possibilities of interaction in the constantly churning world of cyberspace.

In contrast to music, photography, film and all the other forms of media that are used and studied, user or reader interaction makes the web unique. Whether interaction for single user participation or large group collaboration, network designs have revolutionized authorship. Networked computer systems can do what none of these other media were designed to do, integrate minds within the media, to directly connect the authorship of interaction and feedback to the different media of expression. The web challenges composers to find the most effective designs for reader participation through interaction and reaction. Forms of interaction include different forms of presentation media, blog sites, database messaging systems, javascript add-on designs, instant messenger chat, email, audio conferencing and video conferencing and digital gaming which includes video gaming. This raises interesting issues for design and important questions for educators. At what point does the reader's or viewer's use of interaction in a web composition create a co-author of the composition and a motivated participant in advancing the ideas of the work? How important is this cross-over to educators as a measure of a educational success and composition success? What forms and degrees of interaction should be part of all instructional and communication designs? How does digital interaction, and in particular, game play, increase or decrease an individual's competence in the real world solving real problems?

Presentation Media

The mechanism by which the viewer receives information provides the first level of interaction decisions which in turn limit or restrict what will follow to a certain range of actions. If the presentation is via a computer screen, then it will be impossible to pass along the sense of touch necessary to turn a dance partner without overdoing it. If the presentation is via a book then video will not appear in the pages. The technologies for presentation that have come along after paper and physical touch add much to the nature of interaction. Chalkboards and whiteboards make it easier to involve larger groups. CDs work well for text, images and audio, but lack storage capacity and data transfer rates for adequate amounts of video, especially high quality video, problems that DVDs solve easily. Video-walls work well for for conferences among well-budgeted museums and corporations, but currently take up too much space and are too expensive for classroom use. Interactive whiteboards  add touch to the concept of a TV screen. Brands include Smartboards or  Pro Activ (whose site includes several videoclips of systems in use in classrooms). Further, body sensors and environmental sensors report and invite motion and touch on the scale of a museum display area or classroom space.

Some new developments work across presentation media. For example, WebDVDs add the high quality video capacity of DVDs to web page browsing, which is currently weak in presenting a quality video experience. Ralph LaBarge's piece on WebDVD Products and Techniques reviews many ways that DVD video and links to web pages can be managed to take advantage of the best of each.

Use of Desktop Applications

Web pages can link to application files. Once the application file is opened, the reader can be directed or invited to add or extend what is there using the power of the computer. For example, a language arts or writing teacher might create word processing or desktop publishing files with story beginnings, middles and endings. With a click of a link, the file can open on their desktop, allowing them to extend an outline, or add to the story or research that is provided. Math instructors can distribute spreadsheets that are missing data, formulas and graphs that the user must add. The key is widespread availability of an application. Common applications shipped free or routinely bundled in some form on every computer include basic word processing, paint programs, spreadsheets and audio editor/recorders. Video editing software is now routinely included on Windows and Mac computers but the large file sizes needed for such work make this option much more challenging.

As work with desktop applications are completed, it can be added to the same page with the requirements to complete the feedback loop or the web page can merely link to or indicate how to access it.


Blogs remain the easiest form of interaction to include in a web site. They require no computer programming, just a link that presents the blog site within a frame of a composition. During the first chapter of this course of study, everyone created a blog. Now it is time to add that blog creation to your project design. Click my blog link in the chapter menu frame to see my example. By the way, respond using the comment links while you are there.

The first design assignment for this chapter begins with including a link to this blog site in one of your frames. As a next step, include thoughts, reflections, ideas or directions in one or more blog posts that invite or require the reader's participation by clicking the Comments link automatically provided at the bottom of each blog posting. If you have lost your password to your blog site, you will need to go to and create another blog site.

Database Messaging - WonderWeb

The WonderWeb has been a running example all semester of how a web link can be created to a database search that brings back threaded messages. Each click of your name in your WonderWeb team list prompts a search for the email address you used when entering questions and responses. Not only can the technique be used to retrieve message by email address, it can also be used to retrieve messages (database records) based on any searchable field in the database. Decide what questions or thoughts the readers of your composition should respond to, and link them. Your assignment is to enter questions into the SUP database related to the theme of your project and then put a link to the questions in your frame pages.

A review of how this will help. Each question is then automatically given an a unique message number as soon as it is posted. Examine this search string or one of the WonderWeb questions provided in this chapter, This search string of characters runs a search of the database field call MSG for the number 4806, the unique number given to the question in this field of the database. One can use the search string as the linked text, but it makes for greater readability and sense if the question itself is used as the visible linked text, and the database address itself is hidden in the link. Then it would look like this next sentence. What implications should unimedia have for teaching methods classes in reading, writing, social studies, science and math? In each case, the results are identical, a search of the database followed by a presentation of information from the records in the database. In each of these examples, the target command is used to make the results of the search  appear in the rightmost frame or whatever frame the composer designates.

For this second design assignment, take these steps to find and copy the web address of your question to insert in your own web pages. As soon as you have posted a question, a response appears that says Thank You!  >> Return Home. Follow that advice and click the Return Home link. Done immediately, your question will appear at the top of the contribution list as the list displays in reverse date order, the most recent item is first. Click the link to your contribution. Copy the web address that appears at the top of the web page. This captures the MSG or message number and the commands that will retrieve any new messages that respond to this same message number. Link this web address information of your question into your web pages. Any click of your question will retrieve it and any responses.

Javascript Messaging

There are other forms of add-on messaging that requires some programming skills. One approach requires at least the capacity to find the javascript programming hiding in a web page and paste it into your own web page HTML code and modify it to meet your needs. The end result is a web page that adds readers comments on to the end of a page, so that any time the web page opens, the comments appear as well.

As this form of messaging requires some additional experiences and skills not already introduced in this course, there is no assignment requirement to include this in your own web designs. Further, this form of messaging makes the loading of the web page slower and slower as more and more messages are added to it. This is the least useable form of web page interaction, but one relatively common and easy to implement. There are other Javascript formats for information sharing that can be implemented as well. For example,

Javascript, computer programming text embedded in a web page, should not be confused with Java. Java is a programming language that requires the creation and use of files separate from the web page. It also requires much more computer programming knowledge.

Email Address

A fourth approach for inviting reader participation and feedback is to include your email address in a web page. Though this is extremely simple it creates more complex problems. First, in order to share the information someone has sent, the web page must be edited to include the information received in the email. Further, the reader may not indicate which of their web pages their email responds to, requiring more email. Second, the email address put in a web page can be found and grabbed by automated web crawlers or spiders which then add the email address to their database of targets for junk email that is blasted out on a daily basis to millions. I do not recommend it. I often did this in the past and am deleting such references as I find them in my web pages.

Web Conferencing: Instant Messenger chat, Audio and Video Conferencing

Web conferencing extends from one to one to many to many interactions. The major options include text chat, audio conferencing and video conferencing.

Computer networks make it easy to add text chat features. AOL and others provide IM services for free. Any web composition merely needs to provide the user identification names and a time of contact. Audio conferencing or even direct telephone calls over the Internet have the technical name of VoIP or voice or Internet Protocols. Assuming that microphones and speakers are available, Skype is an example of a company that provides free versions of software that carry out voice communication. Other bundle it within certain applications such as Microsoft's Netmeeting or WebCT and Blackboard options such as Voice Messages and Voice Chat (which provides a party line atmosphere). Video conferencing of course requires more expensive cameras, but inexpensive webcams for as little as $40 enable anyone with a Internet connected computer to participate.

Video Gaming

Video gaming is a widespread culture phenomena that crosses into all age groups and is evenly distributed across genders. "As of 2011, the average age for a video game player is 37,[1] a number slowly increasing as people who were children playing the first arcade, console and home computer games continue playing now on current systems.[2] The gender distribution of gamers is reaching equilibrium, according to a 2011 study showing that 58% of gamers are male and 42% female.[1] As of 2011, ESA reported that 71% of people age six to forty-nine in the U.S. played video games, with 55% of gamers playing on their phones or mobile devices.[1] The average age of players across the globe is mid to late 20s, and is increasing as older players grow in numbers.[3]
One possible reason for the growing increase in players could be attributed to the growing number of genres that require less of a specific audience. For example, the Wii console has widened its audience with games such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit. Both require more activity from the user and provide more reasons to play including family competition or exercise. It could also be because people who played video games when they were young are now growing older and still have that interest in video games. Currently, the largest entertainment industry for children is gaming. According to a recent survey, over 70% of children between the ages of 8 and 18 own a video game console." (video gaming culture, Wikipedia)


Selecting the most appropriate form of interaction is in part a function of cost and availability. It also depends on the time available to teach participants how to effectively use the interaction media that is available. There is little to suggest that any one form is clearly better than another for all purposes. The communication leader will need a wide knowledge of many options. There is much to offer those with the creativity to use it. The central issue for educators remains, how does the type of interaction prepare the learner to engage and succeed in solving problems in the real world.

Level II Interaction - Real World Community Interaction

Level III Interaction - The Science of Interaction

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