HCC: Small: Interface Interactivity and User Engagement: A Communications Perspective

Project: Research project

Project Details


Interactivity has become ubiquitous in the digital media landscape. From scrollbars in mobile texting devices to customization options in Web portals to chat functions on social-networking sites, there has been a proliferation of interactive tools affording enhanced user interaction with the system. While studies in the past have assessed the efficacy of individual tools, we have precious little generalizable knowledge about the larger concept of interactivity. How does interactivity affect user experience? Does it always ensure richer user engagement with the medium? The research will experimentally investigate three species of interactivity corresponding to the three central elements of communication -- source, medium, and message. Data will be used to articulate three ordinal levels of each type of interactivity, which will then be operationalized and used in further experiments to detect the combined effects of the three types of interactivity on user engagement as well as other outcomes of interest for both power users and regular users of Web interfaces. The research will assess the validity of conceptualizing interactivity in terms of multiple loci and more importantly, explore theoretical mechanisms by which interactivity is believed to affect user engagement.

A scientific understanding of the psychological effects of interactivity is quite critical for a society that is becoming saturated with interactive digital media. Dissemination of the proposed work will likely spawn a new wave of theoretically driven interactivity research. Research results will feed directly into design of interfaces for a variety of purposes, from learning systems to serious games. The proposed comparison between power users and regular users will shed light on interactivity's potential to bridge the digital divide. Equipment budgeted for lab studies will enhance infrastructure for research and education at Penn State's Media Effects Lab.

Effective start/end date9/1/098/31/12


  • National Science Foundation: $445,813.00


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