“Presence” might be defined as “the perceptual illusion of nonmediation.” That is to say a medium is so seamless, so transparent, that to the user, it creates the illusion it’s nonexistent. For example, when a feature film is so spellbinding, you forget you are watching a movie. You feel presence.
Understanding presence has two practical applications. First for developing new and improved media technologies, and second, for the theoretical application of understanding how people process and organize information.
There are six concepts for presence that are important to consider when studying its cause and effects.
1. Presence as social richness: the way a medium is perceived a social, for example its intimacy or sensitivity.
2. Presence as realism: how accurately a medium represents people, objects or events.
3. Presence as transportation: how a user perceives a medium to “transport” them somewhere else; think: videoconferencing.
4. Presence as immersion: when “the senses are immersed in a virtual world.”
5. Presence as a social actor within a medium: Ever talk to the televsion? Yell at the evening broadcast news?
6. Presence as a medium as a social actor: When a medium acts in likeness to the extent it seems human.
Powerful ideas? Relevant? To me they seem fitting in a world of search and social media. Ironically, these ideas are not anymore mine than they are recent. This is a summary I wrote on October 23, 2000 of a journal article published in 1997.
Lombard, M. & Ditton, T. (1997) At the heart of it all: The concept of presence.
Journal of Computer Mediated Communications 3(2).
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Downplaying the theory of PR