Even architecture can be read as presence technology since it shapes an infrastructure that facilitates certain forms of communication and discards others. Even though ‘presence technology’ and ‘presence research’ are words that are relatively new, in hindsight we can also describe human social history and media history from the perspective of the evolution of presence technologies.note 21
Human history from the perspective of presence technologies
Power, in the sense of empowering and suppressing certain communication between certain people, is an integral part of communication systems and the presence technologies that facilitate them. Cultures also produce different kinds of communication between different people. Questions such as who gets to speak, who gets listened to, who will be printed, what will be distributed, who gets access, who can open channels of communication and who has the power to close them, define structures of domination and possible interactions in social systems. Perhaps needless to say, presence technologies are not neutral in this sense. They reflect social and cultural structures, including power structures. The proverbial formulation 'knowledge is power' is more precisely formulated by Anthony Giddens: "Information storage, I wish to claim, is a fundamental phenomenon permitting time-space distanciation and a thread that ties together the various sorts of allocative and authoritative resources in reproduced structures of domination." (Giddens 1984, 262). Marshal McLuhan's often quoted line "the medium is the message" implies that the structure of information is already the carrier or (re) producer of power structures because it is the "medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action." (McLuhan 1964, 9). The research presented here is also concerned with underlying information and communication structures, as will become clear in chapter 6.