The Interactivity Reader

Table of Contents and Brief Overview

Interactivity as Cultural Perception, Pt 1: Sections 1 & 2

How has our historical perception of the physical universe changed?

 “Our Picture of the Universe” by Stephen Hawking

“The Particle Zoo” by Gary Zukav

The Universe and Doctor Einstein by Lincoln Barnett


Understanding of the universe has evolved over time in response to observations of the natural world. If human beings continue to apply rational thought to emerging patterns we will ultimately discover the unified theory of everything. The rate of discovery is governed by willingness to examine, apply and adapt new ideas to existing theory.


We can’t always know what is real because the universe exists in a state of paradox. Mysteries exist that we do not even possess the language to discuss. We make practical assumptions so that we are not frozen in an endless loop of “but why.” Western thought has changed and must continue to change to acknowledge possibility of coexistent opposites.



Is the biological landscape an interactive design?

 “Earth as a Spaceship” by Kenneth E. Boulding

“Collective Wisdom, Slime-mold Style” by Andy Clark

“Our Journey East: Exploring Foreign Territory” by Harriet Beinfield and Efram Korngold


The biological landscape is an interactive design. The earth itself exists as a mostly closed system. We receive sunlight from outside the system but very little additional resources. What we have is what we have and cannot realistically be added to. Therefore all components of the system must operate with respect to each other. The natural world is defined by interactive systems. Separate components work together through direct and indirect emergence to produce collective results. The human body itself is comprised of interconnected systems which then connect also to the outside world. Everything we do influences everything else.


Interactivity as Cultural Perception, Pt 2: Sections 3 & 4

How is interactivity structured in a networked system?

“The End of Books” by Robert Coover

“Osama Bin Laden and the Advent of Netwar” by John Arquilla and David Ronfelt

“The Extended Mind” by Andy Clark and David J. Chalmers


The structure of a networked system is complex. Individual elements can exist in a non-linear plane, joined together by almost infinitely complex connections. The organizational systems that create these connections are diverse, adaptable and impermanent. The computer age has given rise to incredible amounts of data that must be curate to become accessible and useful. Increased communication has produced a decentralization of control as nodes of connections are created, destroyed and recreated in response to septic needs. It is no longer possible to consider ourselves as isolated members of the world. Even our own minds are supplemented and supported by outside elements.



Do contemporary media structures promote cultural interactivity?

“The Medium is the Message” by Marshall McLuhan

“The Work of Art in the Electronic Age” by Jean Baudrillard

“The Filter Bubble” by Eli Pariser


Contemporary media structures produce cultural interactivity. The media today has permeated society so that information cannot exist independently of the medium with which it is conveyed. In fact, the medium of communication has become more significant than the message itself. Sometimes to such a an extent that the message itself is no longer real. The information that we receive is now funneled through any number of filters, some of which we control but many of which we do not even know about. This filtering of information produces cultural interaction.


Activity as a Compositional Value for Artists; Complex Systems and Automata:

Why would artists create work algorithmically?

“In the Logicians Voice” by David Berlinski

“The Serial Attitude” by Mel Bochner

“Music as a Gradual Process” by Steve Reich

“The Cut-up Method” of Brion Gysin by William S. Burroughs


Emerging technology allows artists to create work that is self-defining.


What is Cybernetics?

“The Emergence of Control” by Kevin Kelly

Excerpt from God and Golum, Inc by Norbert Wiener

An Interview with Hans Haacke by Jeanne Siegel


The work is able to become a “self.” the “self” does not refer to consciousness or spirituality but to self-regulation, governance and control. The separation between natural and technological life has become primarily irrelevant.


What are generative systems?

“Metacreation” by Michael Whitelaw

“Cellular Automata and Art” by Brian P. Hoke


The artist sets the procedures and the work is allowed to generate itself based on those procedures.


Interactivity as a Compositional Value for Artists:

Why is interface design important in interactive art systems?

“An Abstract Model of Instrument Control” by Nate Aldrich

“The History of the Interface in Interactive Art” by Söke Dinkla

“The Interface” by Lev Manovich


The artist has become the creator. The focus of the work no longer needs to be the result. It can be the design of an interface that will independently produce. The design of the human-computer interface produces tools that allow artists to set parameters for the work.


Why would artists create an interactive work?

“The History of Electronic Music as a Reflection of Structural Paradigms” by Joel Chadabe

“Interaction” by Caitlin Rubin

“The Myth of Interactivity” by Lev Manovich

“Healing Interactions and Interactive Digital Art” by Barbara Buckner


The resulting work allows users to make choices and exert change on the work. The artist, the work and the participant interact together to create meaning within the work. The message of the artist no longer needs to be subconsciously interpreted. It can be an active process that engages the viewer in deciphering creative mysteries.