Interactive Information

Interactive information allows a user to retrieve information through a series of choices or specific keyword searches. In this non-linear format, a reader can jump to targeted areas within a document, or browse through a menu to access different levels of information.

Interactive information theories were studied and developed by Norbert Wiener - mathematician, educator, and founder of Cybernetics: The theoretical study of communication and control processes in biological and artificial systems.

Cybernetics deals with information that is controlled by automated machines such as computers. This has led to the commonly used prefix Cyber - (derived from the Greek word "kubernÍtÍs" steersman or governor).

"The dominant communications media do not respond directly to feedback from their audiences, do not deliver what the audience wants or needs at the moment when the audience wants or needs it -- in short, they are not interactive...

...people are bombarded with messages and find themselves unable to sort, store, and evaluate them effectively.

Cybermedia would be a medium that responded to its audience. It would deliver useful information in reply to the messages it received from that audience."

Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), U.S. mathematician, educator, founder of Cybernetics. The Human Use of Human Beings (1950).

A good analogy for interactive communication can be drawn from a servomechanism: a mechanical device that is commonly a part of a control system.

ser∑ vo∑ mech∑ a∑ nism

A feedback system that consists of a sensing element, an amplifier, and a servomotor, used in the automatic control of a mechanical device.


A servo is used when feedback from a motor is needed to dynamically control a system for different operating conditions. A feedback process like this can also be part of technical information and communication design.

Technical information may need to be understood and used by a wide variety of readers. In order for it to be useful to an engineer, a product technician or a first time user, there has to be an interactive element that allows feedback from the audience to control the content of the information.

In order for a technical document to be effective, it must be able to speak to multiple users and respond to their individual and specific needs.


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