This article provides steps toward a theory of the basic effects that multimedia systems have on people. These effects are grouped into knowledge transfer, entertainment, and data processing. Although based on empirical investigations, several components of the theory are controversial and in need of further critical empirical investigation. This article criticizes the optimistic multimedia paradigm, the dominant conviction among multimedia system developers and users that adding multimedia functionality to information systems (always) leads to improved information and knowledge transfer. Adding multimedia functionality is not sufficient for these and other learning effects. The role of independent variables that facilitate multimedia effects is reviewed and a more moderate, realistic multimedia paradigm is proposed.
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