Interactive Media: Definition, Types, and Examples

What Is Interactive Media?

Interactive media is a method of communication in which a program's outputs depend on the user's inputs. In turn, the user's inputs affect the program's outputs. It refers to the ways in which people process and share information or how they communicate with each other. 

Interactive media allows people to connect with others or organizations by making them active participants in the media they consume through text, graphics, video, and sound.

Key Takeaways

  • Interactive media refers to the ways in which people process and share information.
  • It's meant to engage the user and interact with them in a way that non-interactive media does not.
  • Social media, virtual reality, and apps are all forms of interactive media. Television and radio are the most common examples of non-interactive media.
  • Interactive media arose through the Internet revolution of the 1990s and improved technology, such as smartphones.
  • The uses of interactive media are far and wide, ranging from education and networking to video games.

Understanding Interactive Media

The purpose of interactive media is to engage the user and interact with them in a way non-interactive media does not. Traditional forms of media, such as television and radio, originally required no active participation. These forms of media made consumers more passive, providing them with no way to navigate through their experiences except for the ability to change the channel.

That began to change with the advent of the Internet in the 1990s. As technology developed, consumers were given different tools through which interactive media was presented. Access to the Internet went from an expensive utility available only through dial-up to a wireless tool accessible with the touch of a finger.

Computers and laptops became household items and a necessity in the workplace. Smartphones made interacting with media easy and convenient.

Interactive media will become even more immersive as technology becomes more advanced, broadening what people can do.

Elements of Interactive Media

Unlike traditional media, interactive media is meant to enhance a user's experience. An interactive medium will require one more of the following elements to do that:

  • Moving images and graphics
  • Animation
  • Digital Text
  • Video
  • Audio

A user can participate by manipulating one or more of these elements during their experience, something traditional media doesn't offer.

Six Degrees is often considered to be the world's first social media platform. It was founded in 1996.

The Influences of Interactive Media

Interactive media doesn't just make people more active. It also gives them the power to communicate with people, companies, and organizations with whom they would normally have no contact. It allows the free flow and exchange of ideas and information.

Interactive media also has an educational component, making it a powerful learning tool. It allows and encourages students to become more active in their learning experiences and more collaborative and to be more in control of what they're learning.

Interactive media has changed the way people traditionally approach various personal and professional aspects of life, such as searching for a job, interviews, going to school, and advertising.

Examples of Interactive Media

People are surrounded by interactive media in the digital era. You'll find an example of this form of communication everywhere you look.

  • Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are examples of interactive media. These sites use graphics and text to allow users to share photos and information about themselves and to chat and play games.
  • Video games are another type of interactive media. Players use controllers to respond to visual and sound cues on the screen that are generated by a computer program.
  • You use apps if you have a mobile device like a smartphone. These forms of interactive media can help you figure out the weather, direct you to a desired location, choose and respond to news stories in which you're interested, and allow you to shop.
  • Virtual reality (VR) is another form of interactive media. VR gives users a completely immersive experience, allowing them to delve into a world that's almost a carbon copy of reality. The only difference is that this world is digital.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary advantage of using interactive media?

Interactive media allows the user and a business to interact and communicate much more seamlessly. As a consumer, you can communicate with the business and get your questions answered. As a business owner, you can more easily identify and address your clients' or customers' needs and concerns.

What are some common examples of interactive media?

You most likely engage in interactive media repeatedly all day. You've done so when you check in to your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook account, or when you tap into your Uber phone app to arrange for a ride home. Maybe you take care of some personal finance issues on your smartphone as well. All these are examples of interactive media.

What are the elements of interactive media?

Interactive media often provides audio and visual components, as well as animated images and graphics, but it doesn't have to be that fancy. You're engaging in this type of media whenever you simply enter text into an app or tap a key on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Interactive media is basically anything that gives you some measure of control over what you're watching or contributing.

The Bottom Line

Interactive media allows people to connect with friends, acquaintances or even businesses and organizations in a way that allows them to maintain some control over the encounter. As a consumer, you most likely engage in it every day. As a business owner, it provides you with a great tool to gauge customer satisfaction and to make changes to keep your business up and running in response to complaints and concerns.

Article Sources
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  1. Columbia University School of the Arts. "Elements of Good Interactive Media Design," Pages 2-3.

  2. North Central College. "Types of Interactive Media."

  3. Elon University. "What Is Interactive Media?"

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