Ken Calhoun, Assistant Professor at Elon University, Discusses Interactive and Immersive Media

Ken Calhoun is an assistant professor of communications at Elon University

Ken Calhoun is an assistant professor of communications at Elon University. Photo courtesy of

Sarah Beth Costello
April 17, 2009

Media is constantly changing, adapting and coexisting with other media. With the emmergence of new media comes convergence and collaborative media. Media is combined and incorporated into multimedia platforms.

In today’s society, media encompasses more than passive viewing. Media has become interactive, allowing for audience participation.

Ken Calhoun is a writer and assistant professor of new media at Elon University in Elon, N.C. Calhoun has professional experience in interactive television as well as the entertainment industry.

Calhoun gave a presentation Friday about multimedia and interactive media. “Traditional media is this one directional media,” said Calhoun. “There’s a sender and there’s a receiver. But interactivity allows for active participation.”

Interactive media enables individuals to engage in back in forth communication, and also provides “choice and control.”

“These days because of social media and because you can basically tap the Internet as a database, the permutations of opportunities in certain formats in certain experiences can be endless,” said Calhoun. Calhoun demonstrated choice and control using the example of a tape and a CD.

The tape is linear in that the actual tape can be stretched out and a preferred song can be identified on the tape. A CD is different because it is a round disk that contains information read by a lasor. “You have an enabling choice because if you want to hear song five, you just hit song five,” said Calhoun.

Interactive Media’s Current Status in Media Landscape

Calhoun said that there are three specific “flavors” that make up interactive media: storytelling, responsive visuals and conversation.

“Flavors suggest that there’s some blending and mixing opportunities,” said Calhoun. “It’s not these hard and fast categories. What I like about flavors is that you can kind of see these flavors merging and overlapping in a lot of ways.” Rather than strict definitions, the three flavors represent three available areas of media production.

Calhoun is the mastermind behind the term “responsive visuals,” which he says is a reference to viewers response to graphic visuals available through media. Conversation includes tools like Twitter, Facebook and Myspace – social networks that enable communication that contributes to society.

‘Extending Your Reach’

Calhoun also discussed the importance of being well rounded, specifically as an individual interested in communications. “I think you can create more career options for yourself if you have more skills,” said Calhoun. “I think it’s important to focus on that one skill – whether it’s writing, or it’s video – but the more you touch these different areas of communication, the more likely you are to find yourself a job.”

In today’s day and age where multimedia has become imperative to the survival of companies, it is not always enough to have one particular skill. Often, employees are required to “wear many different hats.” More hats provides more assurance of a job and potential career.

“We make decisions based on what we think will be most effective,” said Calhoun. There are so many options available for communication, and individuals make decisions based on what they perceive to be the most appropriate method. A person may decide to tweet personal information via Twitter rather than send an E-mail or make a phone call. Similarly, companies should work in the same way when attempting to figure out the best way for getting a message across.

As individuals delve deeper into interactive media, they begin exploring more difficult and advanced media methods. “The idea,” said Calhoun, “is that you’re bringing people deeper into the narrative. Multimedia is supposed to do that because it allows you to use sound, images time – all those tools that try to make the experience more immersive.”

Twitter and Social Networking

The Internet has brought a swell of communication methods available to users. One of the newest forms of communicating with a global society is Twitter. These tools enable users to constantly stay connected with not only friends, colleagues or family, but also with your audience. This tools generate “followings” and allow for the constant movement between blogs, Twitter etc.

1 comment
  1. Janna said:

    Excellent detail to your presentation! Wow. This is really great considering the time constraints you were under when you produced this. As your editor I still find some flaws. For one thing, watch your “voice”; there are some stretches in which you are paraphrasing Calhoun but not giving your audience enough cues to indicate that it is his opinion/expertise and not yours. Look at is and see if you can tweak it to get those nuances correct.

    The key missing ingredient is that you never explain why Calhoun is an expert. What is his background? – tell us a bit of his bio as you go along or in a boilerplate bio sentence. What is his future? He’s helping to lead a new program on interactive media at a major U.S. school of communications. Let your readers know about that.

    Sometimes your subheds are complete and give value – for instance the first one is OK. Sometimes your subheds are passive placeholders – readers don’t look at passive labels, you have to give them active verbs and specific details in your subheds.

    You could have broken this up into more short paragraphs. WHERE ARE THE LINKS? Link to the iMedia program, to info about interactive media, etc. Also you could add more keyword tags.

    There are some copy editing corrections that should be made – can you find them yourself? Try looking carefully. You could possibly have a friend with a good eye look at it with you and offer suggestions, too.

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