By Megan Wanner
Professor Kenneth Calhoun, assistant professor in the School of Communications at Elon University, N.C., spoke to Reporting students April 8 about interactive media and its place in the world of Communications.
Interactive media is a two-way system of communication that allows for active participation with the audience by allowing them to have choice and control. “Compare a CD with the old tape format,” Calhoun said. “If you listen to a cassette when you hear song five on your old Michael Jackson cassette you have to rewind or fast forward because it’s a linear thing…But with a disc, it is all located on the top of the circular shape and there’s a laser that reads and it allows you to get to that information faster. That is a technology now enabling choice because if you want to hear song five you just hit five and it goes there and immediately plays. You always had that choice with the analog format of tape, but it wasn’t as convenient and available.”
Calhoun outlined three “flavors” of interactive media, storytelling, responsive visuals and conversation, students could use to “extend their reach” beyond the writing aspect of media.
Within the storytelling aspect, communicators use media objects such as interactive narratives, digital storytelling and menu-driven multimedia to produce multimedia stories for their audiences. These media objects are seen on Web sites such as interactivenarrative.org and secondstory.com where audiences can have a completely different experience with media. “There are ways that interactive media is being used to tell stories that aren’t just video stories sitting inside a frame,” Calhoun said. “There are stories that you have to kind of navigate your way through.”
Responsive visuals are displayed in numerous formats including games, maps, timelines and rollover graphics. The key to these visuals is to make the audience’s interaction with them truly rewarding as they have the opportunity to touch, play and explore. “Those kinds of responsive experiences are now a part of the storytelling packages or part of the Internet experience because of the authoring tools that enable it,” said Calhoun.
The conversation aspect of interactive media is more focused on blogging, wikis, picture sharing and social networks. Conversation is based on creativity, exploiting and hijacking in order to reach audiences and to advertise.
Calhoun is gearing up to teach the newly introduced Interactive Media graduate program at Elon University.
Check out more about what Calhoun has to say about interactive media: