Good actions are those that, while producing good for the individual via the natural appetites and emotions, do not harm other individuals (É). An action that would be personally beneficial but would harm others is not good because harming others always haunts and eventually harms the individual that causes the harm (..). Neither the essence of the conatus, nor the notion that harm to the other is harm to the self are Spinoza's inventions. But perhaps the Spinozian novelty resides with the powerful blend of the two. (Damasio 2004, 172).
Inspired by Damasio and Spinoza, I conclude that in natural presence emotions and feelings are strong indicators of people's well-being and survival, and that in these emotions and feelings the roots of ethical behaviour, triggered by witnessed presence, are to be found. When I transpose this insight to the realm of mediated presence many questions appear concerning the well-being and survival of the self and of other selves. How do feelings and emotions operate on the level of establishing a connection, on the level of the interface, of the content and the context that mediated presence can offer? And how does one actually meet 'the other' and does this create social emotions as a result? The main issue I suspect, is that in mediated presence the ethical experience is limited because mediation involves a limited sensorial experience, context can hardly be mediated and the action radius of the actor is defined by the formats that the technology and the editorial orchestration offers. Mediated presence increases the distance between our own self and the selves of others. Mediated presence increases the moral distance between an actor and his actions and between other people's selves and their actions.
Which feedback mechanisms diminish moral distance? How can we design mediated presence in such a way that it will support the conatus and the ethical behaviour that is part of it? These are major questions that cannot solely be the responsibility of designers and engineers to solve. It will require a great deal of research from a variety of perspectives, which will have to be unified via interdisciplinary teams. In the final chapter I will propose an initial idea for a conceptual framework that may be of value in such a quest.