False Interactivity

The prompt for this assignment is to “Pick a piece of interactive technology in public, used by multiple people. Write down your assumptions as to how it’s used, and describe the context in which it’s being used.”

Rather than picking a piece of interactive technology, I’ve found something that looks interactive, but in reality, it is just a one-way form of media. It is the big screens we can find on a lot of NYC’s subway stations.

Screens on the right spotted at DeKalb Ave subway station

Most of the times the screen would display either a subway map, information about planned work on the subway system, or train arrival information. However, sometimes they also show advertisements.

When displaying advertisements, it is pretty obvious that these monitors are merely displays and are not meant to be interacted with. But when it is actually displaying helpful information such as the timetables, or the subway map, it looks as if the screen is meant to be touched by the commuters. The design language is consistent with those kinds of screen that have touch interactivity.

Children trying to touch the screen

I visited a number of subway stations and stayed for about 15 minutes at each of them. With the exception of one station, I was consistently able to find someone trying to touch the screen to see if it is indeed a touch screen.

Train arrival information

I think it’s the glass-like coating on the screen and the way it is positioned that makes it look like it is interactive. Some of the pages displayed also is using the design language of a mobile application. For example, when displaying arrival information of subways, it displayed in a way that is almost as if one can scroll down to see more information.

It is interesting to me how we are now at that point where interactivity of media is now completely expected. Interactivity is no longer something new or groundbreaking, it is rather something that is expected by society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *