Participation vs. Interaction

Something to think about as we move into the “Present” segment of our educational journey. We have spent the first week looking at the origins of interactivity. Now it’s necessary to examine today’s interactive landscape—an environment driven by digital media convergence and the so-called Web 2.0 trends and technologies (or rather, new applications of existing technologies).

So first let’s attempt to get our heads around convergence. One of the leading voices on the subject is Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture and Director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. In his writings and talks, the word “participation” is frequently used. In the context of our class, I’m compelled to ask, “How is participation different from interaction?” Ask yourself this question as you listen to this podcast, featuring Henry Jenkins. (Click on the link, then click on the grey play button arrow on the top left of the page, right above Henry’s picture.)

After listening, write a post in which you attempt to get at the different between “participation” and “interaction”. Please don’t research your response. I want you to think through this and intuitively arrive at an answer.


7 Responses to “Participation vs. Interaction”

  1. Bethany Swanson Says:

    Henry Jenkins focuses his discussion on a growth of a participatory culture in the United States. His use of that term, to me, really draws on the idea of the ability of the average person becoming an entity in the media world. This sudden ability for any man to be a newscaster on YouTube or through the self-publishing of a blog, this use of interactive media, enables the average person to participate in the democracy and the culture. They are using interactive tools and using interactive mediums, and by doing so are participating in a world in which the “everyman” becomes a more reliable source than the professional.

    I think his most interesting and thought provoking point is the idea that there will always be waves of time when there are people who are willing to participate and take an active role by interacting with their government, but at the same time there will always be those who will refuse to do so. Apathy occurs regardless of the possibility of the ability to become a part of the process.

    To be honest, I think the difference here is just semantics. To participate is simply to take part in something, to share in an action or event. To interact is to act upon one another. Interaction implies a sort of give and take where as to participate means really to simply offer, without any two-way relationship. In terms of what is expected in new media, interaction may really be the best term because it suggests something of a dialogue, rather than a spectatorial stance, as Jenkins described of past democratic action based in habit rather than the give and take.

  2. Hillary Stoker Says:

    After listening to Henry Jenkins and his podcast I am still a little unsure about the difference between interaction and participation. In class we have been discussing blogging and gamers and other sorts of interactive media; during his interview Henry Jenkins explains blogs and games and the web as being part of a participatory culture. In my mind participation and interaction are one in the same. They both allow and require input and effort. However a person participates in something, not with something. Interaction implies some sort of input and response; a kind of 2 way communication. When a person participates in something they are giving input, but they do not receive any kind of response. I have spent all day thinking about this and that is the best difference I can come up with. As I said before, I am still a little unsure about the difference between interaction and participation. I look forward to discussing the topic in class on Monday.

  3. Eryn Gradwell Says:

    In Henry Jenkin’s podcast, he talks about how we now have an explosion of new media. It is now possible to “archive, annotate, recreate and circulate media.” With that being said, there is more interactivity going on than participation in this present day. With interaction, there is two-way communication between the user and the activity. Participation, however, requires little input from the activity. This leads to less gratification for the user than the gratification they receive when interactivity is present.

    As we read in one of our chapters last week, mass audience can participate at an event, but they cannot all interact. You can participate in class by doing work that is asked of you. Interactivity cannot be achieved from a mass audience. Individuals are affected by interactivity because they choose their own outcome. Interacting in a class discussion changes the direction of the discussion.

    You can participate in Lego building, but you can’t interact with Legos. There’s no two-way communication between you and the Legos. You can interact, however, with a video game. There is two-way communication between you and the video game.

  4. Janus Rogerson Says:

    For me, the difference between participation and interaction is that with participation you are working to bring awareness about a cause or contributing your thoughts about a subject to be consumed by the masses. For real participation to occur I feel that there has to be a passion there that doesn’t necessarily exist with interaction. With interaction, only a little piece of you goes into what is being done (unless you are the one actually creating the interactive piece.) Most of the time with interactivity we are just the users or players, we are not the creators. With participation you are creating or producing something and with that comes a sense of pride. I almost feel like there needs to be a phrase to describe participation, that takes the expression “lean forward” to a higher level.

  5. Shenee Howard Says:

    Am I seriously going to be first?
    I really needed to think about this because I really thought of them like synonyms. I really liked the podcast because I haven’t really thought about our new media age as making for a “participatory culture.” In our communications classes, we are always talking about how the guy with the camera phone is becoming the next photojournalisms and guys with a web cam in their basements are becoming our next viable political columnists. This is already happening with our current elections. Candidates are using online “participation sites” to reach out to younger audiences.
    I think that is where participation differs from interactivity is the activism part of it. I really think that when you are participating in anything, you are trying to bring about change. When people participate in blogs are forums, you aren’t getting a automatic response. You are putting your ideas out there and getting a special response because of what you are saying. When I think about interaction, I think about games and the flash projects we watched in which you are interacting with the environment but you aren’t effecting how it will be once you leave. For example, in this blog, we are not just clicking around and exploring we are writing ideas that others will read and as a result changing what this page is.
    So more or less I think that interaction is interacting but not really permanently impacting something and participation as bringing on some type of change.

  6. Scott Lauer Says:

    Comparing interaction with participation seems a relatively fine line to me, however I can see where they differ. Without research, defining the two might not be correct as I am basing this on experience but I feel interaction may be slightly more involved than participation. To me interaction implies some sort of mingling putting all users on the same level with equal opportunities. While there may be some with higher standing the general populous can exchange information with one another on a fairly casual and involved level. On the other hand I feel that participation requires less of those who are taking part. A participant normally is one who is taking part in an activity, but generally is being led by another who provides instruction or guidance. I feel the best way to learn is by actually being fully involved, as would seem to be the case with interaction, so this would likely be a good outlet for immersion based media.

  7. I think many people use the terms participation and interaction interchangeably. After listening to the podcast, I would say that choosing to participate in anything, weather politically or culturally seems more empowering than to interact with media. Newly developed media affords us the opportunity to readily participate both in political affairs and cultural affairs. We have the ability to create our own blog, or participate in a thread created by others. The idea of participation, no matter what the context, lends itself to the idea of empowerment. With participation, we choose what we want to create or do.

    Although the concept of interactivity in no way seems passive, it seems we are limited in choice. To interact with politics could simply mean to search a website for your favorite candidate’s newest speech while participation in the debate gives the ‘user’ more of a hand in creating and delivering the message or concept. Presently, our culture calls us to participate more and more and invites us to interact with other people; both globally and locally. As Jenkins mentioned, amateur cites like youtube are viewed as a much more urgent way to get information because anyone can participate and post their own information. Companies are starting to see that these websites are actually more credible than major media forms such as CNN or ABC.

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