Depth of Relation

The depth of relation between human beings is the fourth variable that defines how witnessing takes place. Witnessing a loved person in on- or offline environments is very different from witnessing a stranger. This relation provides a very strong context in natural as well as in mediated presence.

In social relations human beings develop a whole range of psychological states, from simple emotions of like and dislike, to love and hate and more complex feelings like compassion or solidarity. To be a witness to suffering or being witnessed when suffering demands performance of presence and social structures that support. Also passion, joy and success need performance of presence and social structures that support. When focusing on ethics in presence technologies the question that rises is how complex feelings and emotions like compassion, empathy, shame, guilt and others, evolve in mediated presence over time and affect the social structures in which human beings live and survive. Because of the large-scale use of presence technologies, the range and depth of human relationships are undergoing significant change. People can be ‘in touch’ with loved ones thousands of miles away and strangers can become intimate friends even though one has never met in real life before or even intends to do so.
Processes of attribution, synchronization and adaptation have more impact than ever because current presence technologies can only facilitate partial channels of communication and transactions. Because mediated presence is dependent on these processes of attribution, solitary human beings are easily confused about what they perceive. The social structures, in which the mediated presences of other people are perceived, are crucial in the understanding of the trustworthiness and truthfulness of the presences that are witnessed. Even in large social networks the connection to the natural presence of human beings involved, is necessary to create trusted and truthful environments. Also in collaborations it appears to be necessary to meet in natural presence when issues of ethical nature are at stake. In natural presence the ultimate sense of what is good for survival and well-being is strongest and the identification of other human beings and the concepts that are shared, is clearest.
Therefore ethics of presence technologies have to be founded in the natural presence of human beings involved. To better understand the social structures in which witnessed presence operates, the YUTPA framework was developed (Nevejan 2007).