Bram Dov Abramson on Wed, 8 Apr 1998 03:11:54 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Interactivity: Hicks responds to Hopkins, Stalder

>[Felix Stalder] wrote:
>> There are definitely more or less interactive devices. In some cases, say
>> the elevator, the interaction is extremely limited -- up or down -- in
>> other cases it is more sophisticated. The point, however, is that ALL
>> machinery has SOME degree of interactivity, with the single exception of
>> clocks.

A. Cinque Hicks wrote:
>i don't really see the use of an adjective so vague that it describes
>*everything*, but okay, if we provisionally agree that all machinery has
>SOME degree of interactivity, then in fact clocks do as well. i have a
>clock sitting right in front of me and believe me i have to interact
>with that goddam thing every morning at 8:30.  for that matter why limit
>interactivity to physically touching things?

At the risk of committing that cardinal sin, jumping in halfway through a
conversation -- we all deal with information overload in our own ways --
let me offer someone else's thoughts on the matter.  Specifically those of
two Montrealers, Serge Proulx and Michel Sénécal, who have an article
called (in French) "Is Technical Interactivity a Mere Pretense of Social
Interaction and Democracy?" (_Technologie de l'information et société_ 7:2,
1995), which got translated in a handy volume called _Communication and
Multimedia for People_, put out by Transversales Science/Culture in Paris.

Anyway, Proulx and Sénécal attack arguments which

	"shift between the description of conditions considered
	as necessary to technical interactivity and the mention
	of new possible avenues for social interaction and the
	democratization of communication.  These sociotechnical
	arguments, however, seem to confuse the technical
	mechanisms of interactivity between humans and machines with
	the social mechanisms of interaction between individuals.
	There is a danger here of propagating a technical-
	cultural myth which recurs in the development of new
	media technologies -- namely, the myth that the creation of
	new systems of technical interactivity necessarily leads to
	a greater democratization of social communication.  In this
	article we propose some ideas toward a critique of the social
	use of this notion of interactivity, and for the deconstruction
	of this new contemporary myth."

To which I'd add only: right on.  Interactive?  Yeah, of course.  So what?

Bram Dov Abramson
Communication Policy Research Laboratory
Université de Montréal
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