In the context of communication between a human and an artifact, interactivity refers to the artifact’s interactive behaviour as experienced by the human user. This is different from other aspects of the artifact such as its visual appearance, its internal working, and the meaning of the signs it might mediate. For example, the interactivity of an iPod is not its physical shape and colour (its so-called “design”), its ability to play music, or its storage capacity—it is the behaviour of its user interface as experienced by its user. This includes the way the user moves their finger on its input wheel, the way this allows the selection of a tune in the playlist, and the way the user controls the volume.
An artifact’s interactivity is best perceived through use. A bystander can imagine how it would be like to use an artifact by watching others use it, but it is only through actual use that its interactivity is fully experienced and “felt”. This is due to the kinesthetic nature of the interactive experience. It is similar to the difference between watching someone drive a car and actually driving it. It is only through the driving that one can experience and “feel” how this car differs from others.
New Media academic Vincent Maher defines interactivity as “the relation constituted by a symbolic interface between its referential, objective functionality and the subject