What Is Interactive Media?

Interactive media is a method of communication in which the program's outputs depend on the user's inputs, and the user's inputs, in turn, affect the program's outputs. Simply put, it refers to the different ways in which people process and share information, or how they communicate with one another. Interactive media allows people to connect with others—whether that's people or organizations—making them active participants in the media they consume.

Key Takeaways

  • Interactive media refers to the different ways in which people process and share information.
  • Interactive media is meant to engage the user and interact with him or her in a way non-interactive media do not.
  • Examples of interactive media include social media, video games, and apps.

How Does Interactive Media Work?

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

But with the advent of the internet in the 1990s, that began to change. As technology developed, consumers were given different tools through which interactive media was presented. Access to the internet went from an expensive utility once available only through dial-up to a wireless tool accessible by the touch of a finger. Computers and laptops became a household item and a necessity in the workplace, and mobile devices began making interacting media easy and convenient.

Elements of Interactive Media

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

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

A user can participate by manipulating one or more of these elements during his or her experience, something traditional media does not offer.

Examples of Interactive Media

In today's digital era, people are surrounded by interactive media. Everywhere you look, you will find an example of this form of communication.

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, 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.

If you have a mobile device like a smartphone—and chances are you do—you use apps or applications. These forms of interactive media can help you figure out the weather, direct you to the desired location, choose and respond to news stories in which you are interested, and allow you to shop. The possibilities are endless.

Another form of interactive media is virtual reality or VR. VR gives users a completely immersive experience, allowing them to delve into a world that an almost carbon copy of reality. The only difference is that this world is digital.

The Influences of Interactive Media

Interactive media has a very important role in today's world. Not only does it make people more active, but also it gives them the power to communicate with others (people, companies, organizations) with whom they would normally have no contact. It also allows the free-flow and exchange of ideas and information.

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