STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania: As online media vehicles rev up and vroom off on the infobahn, traditional media slowcoaches seem to have hit upon “interactivity” as the magic device to slow down the upstarts. But too much interactivity can be a bad thing, especially if the content is not good enough, says S. SHYAM SUNDAR.

Professor of communications at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, and founder and co-director of PSU’s Media Effects Research Laboratory, Dr Shyam Sundar says moderate interactivity—through hyperlinks, dialogues with editors and reporters, devices to enable interaction with other readers—is in general a better option.

“If you are not too much interested in content, interactivity helps to draw you in. However, too much interactivity serves to distract you from the content.

“Politically apathetic users are bowled over by interactive features, but politically involved readers of news like moderate interactivity over high or low inactivity. It is cognitively overloaded and they get turned off by the bells and whistles that interactivity brings in.

“We do find that interactivity brings in engagement or involvement with content. So higher the interactivity it draws people in, it brings you face to face with content. But if the content is not good at that point, then people get disappointed. So you have to be careful how you deploy your interactive resources. If the content is mediocre, it might not be such a great idea to bring people face to face. If it is good, it’s your benefit to build as many interactive features.”


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