Interactivity is a characteristic of communication situations that is drawing more and more attention. Many researchers suggest that communication is most effective if a high level of interactivity between participants is involved. As yet, however, there is neither consensus on how interactivity is defined, nor on how it can be measured. Some studies on interactivity refer only to computer-mediated communication, whereas others refer exclusively to mass media or face-to-face communication. The present study is aimed at finding an operational definition of interactivity that can be used in almost all communication contexts. To that end, a distinction will be made between how people perceive interactivity subjectively and how it can be measured objectively. Based on three recent reviews on the concept of interactivity, the study will propose an objective measurement instrument for interactivity that includes the scoring of a set of interactivity characteristics such as synchronicity, timing flexibility, control over content, and the physical presence of participants. In addition, the instrument includes the extent to which participants in a communication situation use their senses. For example, do participants use sight and/or hearing in the communication process? Using two examples of communication situations, the applicability of the new instrument is demonstrated by determining the level of interactivity regarding the set of characteristics in a parsimonious and quantitative way. Future studies can then establish how strongly the scores obtained with the objective instrument correlate with subjective perceptions of interactivity.

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The development of a new objective instrument to measure different levels of interactivity

Cees M. Koolstra   Department of Science Communication Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam The Netherlands

Mark J. W. Bos   Department of Science Communication Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam The Netherlands

Interactivity is a characteristic of communication situations that is drawing more and more attention. Many researchers suggest that communication is most effective if a high level of interactivity between participants is involved. As yet, however, there is neither consensus on how interactivity is defined, nor on how it can be measured. Some studies on interactivity refer only to computer-mediated communication, whereas others refer exclusively to mass media or face-to-face communication. The present study is aimed at finding an operational definition of interactivity that can be used in almost all communication contexts. To that end, a distinction will be made between how people perceive interactivity subjectively and how it can be measured objectively. Based on three recent reviews on the concept of interactivity, the study will propose an objective measurement instrument for interactivity that includes the scoring of a set of interactivity characteristics such as synchronicity, timing flexibility, control over content, and the physical presence of participants. In addition, the instrument includes the extent to which participants in a communication situation use their senses. For example, do participants use sight and/or hearing in the communication process? Using two examples of communication situations, the applicability of the new instrument is demonstrated by determining the level of interactivity regarding the set of characteristics in a parsimonious and quantitative way. Future studies can then establish how strongly the scores obtained with the objective instrument correlate with subjective perceptions of interactivity.

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