Characteristics of Computational Media

Why did computers appear?  

I think computers appeared to perform large sets of repeatable operations such as crunching numbers and decrypting messages. The first computers could do a single set of tasks. Later computers became programmable and could perform a wider range of operations.

What is Hard About Communication?

Before the advent of communications technology, human communication was limited by distance, time, speed, and scale. Back when talking was the main form of communication, communication was limited to individuals at the same location at the same time. Technologies such as the telegraph, telephone, radio, and television allowed people to communicate across vast distances at faster speeds to larger audiences. However, the fundamental challenges of communication persisted. Issues such as the arbitrary system of symbols that language is based on, regional and international differences in language, and even the nuances of interpersonal communication. Notwithstanding the fact that language and communication protocols are deeply rooted in culture, communication is multi-modal, which means that it is not only composed of language, but also cues such as facial expressions and gestures.

What do computers add?

Computers add to the affective dimension of communication. Whereas media such as text, images, audio, and video may produce their individual meanings and affects, computational media allows for the integration of all the above types of media to produce interactivity. This results in a more personalized experience compared to linear forms of media such as video. While the same video may produce different affects in different viewers, its structure and story is uniform. Whereas a user’s experience with computational media may be significantly different from another user’s experience based on their individual input.

Is Computational Media Better at Expressing Your Internal Life?

I think the answer to this question depends on the audience of my internal life. If the audience is solely myself, I don’t think computational media would necessarily be better at expressing my internal life than a diary or a journal. However, if I wanted to reach a wider audience, computational media may be more effective in producing empathy, since an interactive media-rich experience may better allow others to understand my point of view.

Does narrative and interactivity go together?

Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, interactivity allows users to make their own meaning and affect the outcome of the narrative. The prime example of interactive narratives are video games. At its core, every video game tells a story. Player choices and actions within the game may directly or indirectly affect the outcome and experience of the narrative. The meaningful interaction of video games, that is, player actions resulting in changes in the game experience, is what I think makes video games one of the most accessible, captivating, and not to mention, popular forms of entertainment today.

What is so important about Computational Media?

To summarize, computational media combines elements of traditional media that allows for personalized experiences and meaningful interaction. The power of computational media lies in its ability to reach a wide audience but at the same time, provide personalized experiences based on user input. Computational media allows users to create their own meaning based on their interaction with the media and has a greater capacity to produce varying affects in different audiences.

How does computational media makes us more or less understanding of people unlike ourselves?

Like other media, the impact of computational media is heavily dependent on the narrative its creator wants to sell. That being said, I think computational media has a greater capacity for producing empathy for groups of people unlike ourselves. While text and video may allow us to understand other groups of people to a certain extent, computational media such as video games and VR allow users to view and interact with another person’s environment. I think the key here again is interactivity because it allows users to build empathy by exploring another person’s world.

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