18 October 2021
Reframing interactivity

MYTHS, ANTINOMIES, GENEALOGIES

20 April 2022
Presencing Worlds
6 September 2020
Really virtual, virtually real

research: workshop

Reframing interactivity

MYTHS, ANTINOMIES, GENEALOGIES

In his influential essay The Inevitable(2016), Kevin Kelly holds interactivity among the major forces that will shape the near future. He maintains that “in the coming 30 years, anything that is not intensely interactive will be considered broken.” Touch screens, smart objects and domotics, in-teractive television series, or adaptive AI-generated video-games, just give us a hint of how our daily experience is going to be transformed.In the last decades, the concept of interactivity hasbeen investigated in several different fields, in the belief that it is key to the way we inhabit the world in a broad sense. Just to make some examples, one may think about Gibson’s theory of affordances (1979) and its developments; the model of the Extended Mind (Clark & Chalmers 1998) and the Material Engagement Theory (Malafouris 2013); or En-activism, according to which our interactions with our envi-ronments, or other organisms, constitute the grounding and the primary expression of cognition itself (Thompson 2007, Gallagher 2020).The advent of electronic media, though, has made the concept of interactivity even more pervasive. Indeed, since their first appearance, electronic media have been defined as “interactive”, in contrast to analog apparatuses. The concept of interactivity aimed both to describe the ability of electronic interfaces to respond to a user’s input, and the way the user could interact with media and devices, choosing which path to follow, manipulating, or generating new content.In the field of narratology, scholars have highlighted the advent of new forms of interactive storytelling (Murray 1997) and more recently of "Interactive Digital Narrative" (Koenitz, Ferri, Haahr, Sezen& Sezen, 2015), concerning works by writers, artists and game designers. Compared to the traditional modes of interaction between the reader and the text –even when considered as non-passive (Eco 1979) –video games have been defined as "ergodic" texts, texts that require an effort from the reader/player (Aarseth 1997).

However, since any reception entails imaginative integra-tions and performative responses (Montani 2020), some scholars have claimed that interactivityis a myth or, at least,too broad a concept to account for the specificity of digital interfaces and should therefore be discarded (Ma-novich 2001). Still, one can argue that an encompassing definition ofinteractivity is misleading, as it includesall sorts of mental and psychological operations regardless of different bodily relations to specific artefactsand media. To elaborate morecircumscribed definitions of interactivityand overcome the antinomies that underpin it,some scholars have used the term to indicate an individual inter-relation with objects, as opposed to “participation” as a collective cooperation in the production and consumption of contents (such as open-collaborative encyclopedia and open-source softwares) and of artworks (Bishop 2012), or to the so-called Relational Art (Bourriaud 1998). Starting from the second half of the 90s, artistic forms have been developed that use the potential of the network. They are defined in various ways (net art, new mediaart, digital art, interactive art, multimedia art, computer art, game art) and they are based on forms of appropriation, collaboration and interaction.Besides, the relation of reversibility and reciprocal feed-back, brought about by electronic media and later by the implementation of artificial intelligence and linked to the concept of interface as well as of "interaction design", has pushed scholars in different fields to account for the agen-cy of digital images (Hansen 2014), of technologies and media (Farocki 2004, Paglen 2014), and, more broadly, of non-human entities (Grusin 2015), as well as to reframe them in operational terms (Hoel 2018). A lot of attention has been paid to human-computer interaction, so as to develop user-friendly interfaces that give the illusion of no technical mediation (Weiser 1991). Today, digital technolo-gies have become so ubiquitously present in our environ-ment that they almost constitute the condition of possibil-ity of our experience and interaction with the environment (Marras & Mecacci 2015).Lastly, with the advent of virtual and augmented reality technologies, the notion of interactivity has conquered yet another field of application. In fact, several properties of VR-or AR-based environments may be explored by recur-ring to the notion of “interactivity”: just to name a few, their ability to offer extremely lifelike sensorimotor affordances; their possibility to involve the users in participatory creative processes, as it happens in “virtual storytelling” (Dooley 2017, Bucher 2018); and their tendency to include interac-tions with quasi-subjects known as “avatars” (Pinotti 2020), be they proxies of human subjects or AI-assisted characters.

In sum, virtual and augmented reality not only afford new types of interactions with the environment, but they also provide the possibility of an intersubjective interactivity in a shared virtual world (Slater & Usoh 1994; Schroeder 2002), that sometimes results in the creation of new collective subjects, with shared/common perception, intentionality and needs (Liberati 2016). Importantly, both these spheres of interactions are regulated by strictly technical condi-tions, which inescapably shape and reverberate on the us-ers’ experience. In this regard, the argument of interactivity cuts both ways, inasmuch as virtual interfaces also come to limit and constrain the user’s freedom (Chandrasekera, Fernando, & Puig 2019); or the degree and type of manipu-lability of a given environment and the objects it contains. This would also lead to question the ideological and politi-cal underpinnings related to liberty, creativity, and deter-minism in so-called VR “open world”.As it emerges from all the above, the concept of “interac-tivity” has undergone multiple and continuous translations and even risked to become something of a buzzword,travelling across as many fields of application.Should we definitely discardsuch anotion,as it demonstrated an in-effective theoretical tool, or rather try to reassess its op-erational framework?

Program

October 18, 2021

Lorem ipsum

13:45 14:00
Barbara Grespi

Introduction

14:00 14:45
Adriano D’Aloia

Where the InterAction Is. From Interactivity to Enactivity

14:45 15:30
Francesco Restuccia

Playing against the Apparatus. Dialogue and Interactivity in Vilém Flusser

16:00 16:45
Anna Maria Monteverdi

Interactivity, Virtual Reality and Remote Audience Performance: the Theatre 4.0. Before, During and After the Pandemic Era

16:45 18:00
Rosy Nardone

Education and Interactivity between Old and New Challenges

October 19, 2020

09:00 11:30
Elisabetta Modena, Valentina Kastlunger, Luca Pozzi

VR experience: AN-ICON 12°Atelier virtual residencies and Luca Pozzi’s artwork Rosetta Mission 2020 (RM2020)

13:45 14:00
Alfio Ferrara

Introduction

14:00 14:45
Alessandro Costella

Image and Imagination in the Virtual Self

14:45 15:30
Riccardo Fassone

Interactivity as the Aesthetics of Bureaucracy. Notes on Video Games as Authoritarian Machines

16:00 16:45
Francesco Spampinato

La Casa Telematica: Italian Postmodern Design and the Advent of Domestic Technologies

16:45 18:45
Fabrizia Bandi

The Experience of Virtual Space: Phenomenological Perception and Interaction in VR

research: workshop

Reframing interactivity

MYTHS, ANTINOMIES, GENEALOGIES

In his influential essay The Inevitable(2016), Kevin Kelly holds interactivity among the major forces that will shape the near future. He maintains that “in the coming 30 years, anything that is not intensely interactive will be considered broken.” Touch screens, smart objects and domotics, in-teractive television series, or adaptive AI-generated video-games, just give us a hint of how our daily experience is going to be transformed.In the last decades, the concept of interactivity hasbeen investigated in several different fields, in the belief that it is key to the way we inhabit the world in a broad sense. Just to make some examples, one may think about Gibson’s theory of affordances (1979) and its developments; the model of the Extended Mind (Clark & Chalmers 1998) and the Material Engagement Theory (Malafouris 2013); or En-activism, according to which our interactions with our envi-ronments, or other organisms, constitute the grounding and the primary expression of cognition itself (Thompson 2007, Gallagher 2020).The advent of electronic media, though, has made the concept of interactivity even more pervasive. Indeed, since their first appearance, electronic media have been defined as “interactive”, in contrast to analog apparatuses. The concept of interactivity aimed both to describe the ability of electronic interfaces to respond to a user’s input, and the way the user could interact with media and devices, choosing which path to follow, manipulating, or generating new content.In the field of narratology, scholars have highlighted the advent of new forms of interactive storytelling (Murray 1997) and more recently of "Interactive Digital Narrative" (Koenitz, Ferri, Haahr, Sezen& Sezen, 2015), concerning works by writers, artists and game designers. Compared to the traditional modes of interaction between the reader and the text –even when considered as non-passive (Eco 1979) –video games have been defined as "ergodic" texts, texts that require an effort from the reader/player (Aarseth 1997).

However, since any reception entails imaginative integra-tions and performative responses (Montani 2020), some scholars have claimed that interactivityis a myth or, at least,too broad a concept to account for the specificity of digital interfaces and should therefore be discarded (Ma-novich 2001). Still, one can argue that an encompassing definition ofinteractivity is misleading, as it includesall sorts of mental and psychological operations regardless of different bodily relations to specific artefactsand media. To elaborate morecircumscribed definitions of interactivityand overcome the antinomies that underpin it,some scholars have used the term to indicate an individual inter-relation with objects, as opposed to “participation” as a collective cooperation in the production and consumption of contents (such as open-collaborative encyclopedia and open-source softwares) and of artworks (Bishop 2012), or to the so-called Relational Art (Bourriaud 1998). Starting from the second half of the 90s, artistic forms have been developed that use the potential of the network. They are defined in various ways (net art, new mediaart, digital art, interactive art, multimedia art, computer art, game art) and they are based on forms of appropriation, collaboration and interaction.Besides, the relation of reversibility and reciprocal feed-back, brought about by electronic media and later by the implementation of artificial intelligence and linked to the concept of interface as well as of "interaction design", has pushed scholars in different fields to account for the agen-cy of digital images (Hansen 2014), of technologies and media (Farocki 2004, Paglen 2014), and, more broadly, of non-human entities (Grusin 2015), as well as to reframe them in operational terms (Hoel 2018). A lot of attention has been paid to human-computer interaction, so as to develop user-friendly interfaces that give the illusion of no technical mediation (Weiser 1991). Today, digital technolo-gies have become so ubiquitously present in our environ-ment that they almost constitute the condition of possibil-ity of our experience and interaction with the environment (Marras & Mecacci 2015).Lastly, with the advent of virtual and augmented reality technologies, the notion of interactivity has conquered yet another field of application. In fact, several properties of VR-or AR-based environments may be explored by recur-ring to the notion of “interactivity”: just to name a few, their ability to offer extremely lifelike sensorimotor affordances; their possibility to involve the users in participatory creative processes, as it happens in “virtual storytelling” (Dooley 2017, Bucher 2018); and their tendency to include interac-tions with quasi-subjects known as “avatars” (Pinotti 2020), be they proxies of human subjects or AI-assisted characters.

In sum, virtual and augmented reality not only afford new types of interactions with the environment, but they also provide the possibility of an intersubjective interactivity in a shared virtual world (Slater & Usoh 1994; Schroeder 2002), that sometimes results in the creation of new collective subjects, with shared/common perception, intentionality and needs (Liberati 2016). Importantly, both these spheres of interactions are regulated by strictly technical condi-tions, which inescapably shape and reverberate on the us-ers’ experience. In this regard, the argument of interactivity cuts both ways, inasmuch as virtual interfaces also come to limit and constrain the user’s freedom (Chandrasekera, Fernando, & Puig 2019); or the degree and type of manipu-lability of a given environment and the objects it contains. This would also lead to question the ideological and politi-cal underpinnings related to liberty, creativity, and deter-minism in so-called VR “open world”.As it emerges from all the above, the concept of “interac-tivity” has undergone multiple and continuous translations and even risked to become something of a buzzword,travelling across as many fields of application.Should we definitely discardsuch anotion,as it demonstrated an in-effective theoretical tool, or rather try to reassess its op-erational framework?

18 October
19 October 2021
12:30
18:00

Crociera Alta di Giurisprudenza

Università degli Studi di Milano, Casa degli Artisti

via Festa del Perdono 7

organized by

Fabrizia Bandi
Roberto Malaspina
Anna Caterina Dalmasso
Reframing interactivity
MYTHS, ANTINOMIES, GENEALOGIES
Crociera Alta di Giurisprudenza
Università degli Studi di Milano, Casa degli Artisti
via Festa del Perdono 7
20211018
20211019
12:30
18:00