Paper: Interaction Paradigms for new Web Technologies – Shift Happens

The concept of “interaction” lies at the foundation of many theories and applications of computer and Internet technologies. Taking the specific example of those theories and applications associated with distance education and educational technology, this paper looks at the role of interaction as a kind of metaphor in educational theory and research. It takes as its starting point the idea that “interaction” represents a kind of research paradigm or “generative metaphor” that structures the way in which technologies are understood and applied, and in which research questions and problems are defined. Emphasizing the role this term has played in specifically in the theory and understandings of educational technology, this paper will consider to what degree the cybernetic and information-theoretical history of this term burdens and limits its semantics and morphology. It will consider alternative ways of understanding this term, and alternate metaphors that might be more efficacious. Surveying a range of literature, it considers the “generative power” or potential that might be gained from relational, contextual or ecological frames of reference. Instead of defining the research and practical challenges in terms of “closing” interactive feedback loops, or of “getting the mix right” between interactive forms, these metaphors offer new potential for understanding the manifold challenges and contexts associated with new “participatory” technologies and their application.

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