I have been making digital interactive media works for almost twenty years now. I have a museum of approximately one hundred works at http://danzen.com. There is a problem. I do not know what to call them and I do not know what to call me, the maker. This matters as it hampers our advancement in culture.
Unlike other creations like Songs, Videos, Sculptures, Paintings, Photographs, etc. we have no name. We are stuck with generic names for what we make – projects, features, works. These describe many types of creations.
Unlike other creators like Musicians, Videogrophers, Sculptors, Painters, Photographers, etc. we have no title. We are perhaps Developers, Designers, Producers, Makers, Creators – but these are titles used in many fields.
I have struggled with this issue all my career and have attempted to come up with an answer a number of times. You can see a poll that I put on Tapoll – a poll application where you predict the results as you vote: http://www.tapoll.com/poll/id/413790478. My recommendations at the time can be seen there – please take the poll.
WHAT DO WE MAKE?
We make digital interactive environments. Firstly, we cannot just say interactive environments as our world is an interactive environment. Digital, these days, means in the computer, so that is fine. Things like songs and films have transcended analog and moved into the digital space – but are not interactive. Some of the things we make have transcended as well such as games. Games are an excellent example of digital interactive environments and certainly would be a subset of what we make.
Applications are also an excellent example of what we make. An applications is software that lets people do things. Traditionally we have had word processors, spreadsheets, paint programs, etc. Applications are certainly digital interactive environments. Social media, where people communicate through posting, sharing, rating, filtering is also a digital interactive environment and can also be thought of as a subset of applications. Gadgets are small applications and we make those – Wavy – wave your mobile device and make sounds, etc. Along the same lines, we make simulations where we recreate experiences in life often for educational or training purposes.
We also make art – which is neither games nor applications but for the most part, interactive experiences. We have to be careful, because many experiences, are not interactive. Videos and Music would not be considered interactive works. You can experience art but it most art is not considered interactive however, there certainly is interactive art experiences and it is an exciting and thriving medium – installation art, etc. and we make that.
I do not consider an information site an interactive environment. Navigation, in my mind, is the weakest form of interactivity and is already found in older media. For instance, you navigate to what channel you want to watch or what book on the shelf and which page to read. Please see my Interactivity Scale.
Digital Interactive Experience is just too long. What options do we have…
In our industry – the Interactive Media industry, it is common to have Interactive departments. This is an indication that interactive is a good word to use. We have even started to use the term as a noun – “have you seen the interactive?” but I would call this fairly rare – an indication that it is not quite the right word as it has had all the opportunity to catch on and has not.
The “inter” prefix of interactive is not terribly important. Most people (even most people in our industry) see the inter part of interaction as being between the user and the computer. They completely forget the true or more powerful meaning behind inter. They forget, that this can mean to interact with people – through the computer.
Act is the key word – whether alone or with others. Activity would be an ideal name. We make activities. Unfortunately, that word has been taken by kindergarten teachers ;-). Also… we would have to add that we make digital activities. But you see how activity fits games, puzzles, applications and for the most part any art form where the user takes part and does something. In the end… “digital activities” is probably not marketable.
In the sense that an activity is a noun (something to do) we could use interactivity as a noun in a similar way. Therefore, we would make an interactivity. You would play an interactivity or partake in an interactivity, etc. I like that. We can then be Interactivists. It is a little tongue and cheek, though, with a play on an activist. Maybe Interactivators ;-). A problem is that interactivity is used most commonly as a qualifier of our product – it has interactivity. It is also not a stand-alone, unique word for our work. Think song, photograph, etc.
We do have the term media but this has been taken by… the media. Media (plural) or a medium (singular) is a great word – it basically means the same as an environment. It is something that sits between. Hot, cold and medium – spiritual medium, etc. In our case, a medium sits between the creator and the creation – like in art – clay, and paint, etc. We are have a very special talent and task. We make mediums. For instance – the Flute is a medium – we would have made the flute. We empower people to make content in our environments. In my philosophy of Nodism I would say we make context in which others can make content. Anyway – slightly digressing – back to it…
Along the lines of video and audio we could construct another such as actio, doeo, interactio etc. I like doeo but it sounds quite silly – probably because of Dewey and our association with Huey, Dewey and Louie – or whatever. Silly is not necessarily a bad thing – and I was using doeo for a while – but I just did not believe in it.
Neal Stephenson called them Ractives in Diamond Age with a plot of an interactive storybook. Racitve is a really cool name and I would support that – it is the last part of interactives. It sounds cool perhaps because of Raptors – it is unique – so… maybe. It has potential. We could then be Ractivators.
Experientials was a thought as for the last 5 years have been using the term “experiences” as what we build. Again, many experiences are not interactive but rather authoritative – not user generated. So, really, this is too broad a term – and it might need the term digital as well. However, since it is a made up word, it might not need the digital qualifier.
Maybe someone who knows more Greek or Latin might come up with some good arrangements.
To really make this stick, I think we need a made up name or a “combo” name with roots or short classifiers.
DIGIDO is my current recommendation. Digido is initially laughable – and undoubtedly you are at least smiling. Smiling is not a bad thing. If we really think about the words audio, movie and video we see that they too are quite cute. People probably chuckled at the start as they did with iPod and iPad and now we are just fine.
I really like the word DO and so does Nike with its Just do it campaign. Do means to act – to take part – to create – to build and make. We make environments in which other people create, communicate and play. They do things. They do not just watch or consume – they do. It is also nice and short.
DIGI – from digital or digits – like our fingers – I believe just means a distinction – like 01 – a jump rather than a blend and hence represents the way computers operate and we are making our environments with computers for computers – whether they be stationary or mobile – big or small – connected or not. The Canadian New Media Awards, of which I have won two, have been renamed to the Digi Awards. So that is a positive point in the digi direction ;-).
Digido sounds slightly like didgeridoo – an auspicious connection as a didgeridoo is one of the most basic of instruments.
One thing to consider is what this would be like as a field or industry. What would it be like on job titles, etc.
Hologram – Holography – Holographer
Photograph – Photography – PhotographerSong – Music – Musician
Show – Television – Producer? Team…
Movie – Film – Film Maker / Videographer
Digido – Interactive Media – Digidoist
Without a name, we are misunderstood. It is slightly more difficult with our industry because we encompass different media – hence our traditional name, multimedia. Unfortunately, with media being plural, multi was considered redundant. The multimedia term is seen as old fashioned – sort of from the CD Rom days. This has left us without a name and at best “interactive media” which is like using “musical notes” every time we mean a song. See what I mean?