Through practices of contextual reflexivity actors improve and change their ways of operating. Contextual reflexivity requires the embodied presence of all actors involved. The gathering of the crucial network around a certain issue has to occur in natural presence when discussing 'What to do?', which implies 'What would be good to do?', because this requires ethical reflections, and for these physical presence is a prerequisite. In mediated presence only opinions are exchanged.
For the accomplishment of an act, an actor is dependent on the work of other actors. When collaborating, incommensurability between practices is a factor that has to be overcome for acts to be successful. Actors share terrains of incommensurability and terrains of commensurability. Project management, meta-cognitive skills, boundary objects and practices of contextual reflexivity help in this.
In communities of practice, taxonomies are built which represent conceptual schemes that define how actors act. The taxonomy shapes the actor and the actor shapes the taxonomy. Acting influences brain structures, which influence acting. Actors recognize other actors' conceptual schemes.
An act cannot be true or false. It is the result of the being-in-the-world that a taxonomy provides. Taxonomies evolve from, and are a fundament of, communities of practice. Taxonomies, including lexicon and conceptual schemes, cannot function outside this community; the community is the world. In the community the actor operates in, multiple mediated presences contribute to the evolving taxonomies, which influence and are a consequence of the way actors inter-act. Mediated presence contributes to the evolving taxonomies in communities in which witnessed presence plays a crucial role.
Consistency in an actor's behaviour is influenced by the clash between intention and realization. The effect of such clashes in natural presence have most impact because the conatus, the quest for well-being and survival, operates on all levels of the organism of the human being, who is trying to regulate constantly towards homeostasis. The brain constantly distinguishes between what is beneficial for life and what is detrimental to life. Physical and cognitive sensations and understanding are involved.
The 'conatus' triggers a human being to take care of him or herself, and it also triggers the human being to take care of 'other selves' to keep the environment healthy and safe. The individual's drive for survival is also the fundament for ethical behaviour towards others. Emotions and feelings are crucial indicators of where well-being and survival are to be found. People steer away from pain, trying to restore the homeostasis. People steer away from unhappiness, trying to make things better. Social conventions and ethical rules may be seen as extensions of the basic homeostatic arrangements at the level of society and culture (Damasio 2004). The UDHR can be seen as a tool for the well-being and survival of humankind.
In mediated presence concepts of causality change because the connection provides the context. The context that a place with an embedded culture offers has disappeared. Context, and especially local and implicit knowledge, can hardly be mediated. Consistency in identity requires special attention when in mediated presence. The question is how social emotions like compassion, empathy, shame, guilt and others, evolve in mediated presence. To be able to act upon emotions and feelings that are sensed, can be highly problematic in mediated presence because one is bound to the formats that the technology and the editorial design offer.
Because mediated presence offers limited sensorial input, limited mediation of context, and limited possibilities to act, it increases the moral distance between an actor and his or her acts. As a result a moral distance is adopted towards the well-being and survival of the self and it is adopted towards the well-being and survival of other people as well.
In the next chapter I will elaborate further upon how the different information and communication technologies facilitate the adoption of moral distance in order to formulate the initial sketches of a conceptual framework that will help to more consciously design respect for human dignity and the building of trust between people via the technologies they use.