Methods for understanding the moment-by-moment reception of interactive media
Oftentimes in media studies that focus on understanding media reception by the audience or the user, there is a focus on reception writ large and post-hoc. That is, there is a tendency to consider the reactions to a media product by the audience/user after the engagement has occurred and as an aggregate of engagements instead of specific situations of engagement. Such has been the tradition of self-reports that rely on recalling the experience of engaging with the media, with the oft-discussed problems of recall bound into the results: chiefly, the loss of focus on specific aspects of the engagement, due to faulty memory, inattention, or social desirability. The unique flavors of specific situations of engagement are further lost when audiences/users are asked to speak about their engagements “on average”, reducing differences in situations with the assumption that the differences within individuals are less important than the differences between individuals. Perhaps these problems were not as egregious in the era of non-interactive media.
However, when media require higher amounts of interaction, such that each choice becomes a potential pivot point for change in an engagement, then the differences within individuals can be as important as the difference between individuals. To that end, method/ologies that address how to measure media engagement within specific situations as they occur could become more desirable. Drawing on empirical applications, this paper makes the argument for learning from such method/ologies in order to understand the minutia or moment-by-moment reception that occurs when engaging with interactive media.