The concept of Presence
Presence is commonly referred to as a sense of “being there” in a technologically mediated environment and more formally as the perceptual illusion of non-mediation. In other words, the user of an artificial environment fails to accurately and completely acknowledge the role of technology in his/her experience and thus, feels and behaves in this environment as if it was ‘real’: for instance, we feel and act as if we’re actually with colleagues, friends and family when we use an increasing variety of conferencing technologies; we treat computer generated virtual agents as if they are sentient social entities even though we know they are not; we feel afraid of a virtual spider crawling over our hand or of an abyss opening up beneath us even though we are in fact aware that neither the spider nor the abyss exist; we like to be thrilled and deceived by 3D IMAX films which make us feel as if we are flying over the Grand Canyon or through outer space; and we ‘get lost’ in TV-shows, movies and videogames.
The vast benefits and implications of the Presence experience for various areas of life are still to be revealed. To date, the advantages of this ‘as-if’ experience are broadly used in education and training: doctors learn how to operate on difficult injuries using simulators, students visit virtual classrooms, pilots train their reactions to critical situations via virtual reality, and post traumatic stress disorder patients learn to deal with their traumatic experience by being confronted step by step to the traumatic event, which to them – even though it is virtual – feels real.
Presence is a rich, fascinating subject of scientific investigation, artistic exploration and technological development and design, with increasingly important implications for the ways in which people work, play and live. Today, Presence phenomena are the subject of research and theory in communication, computer science, psychology, business, philosophy as well as many other scientific and humanities fields; and they are a great challenge for designers and developers, who are trying to refine technology in order to create the most compelling and convincing –the ‘optimal’ – Presence experience.
Topics of the Conference
Topics of interest for the Presence 2014 conference include (but are not limited to) presence phenomena and presence applications in any/every aspect of life: