The possibility to act

In addition to space and time, also the possibility to act influences how presence is performed. In mixed on- and offline environments the possibility to act helps to bridge the different worlds. If there is no possibility to act and a human being is nevertheless witness to enrolling events, people easily adopt a moral distance and doing so detach themselves from the sense for well-being and survival.

Especially in mediated environments where data-identities interact, such a moral distance can even be taken to the own self. Witnessing is an act in which a human being takes responsibility for the act of being witness. If this responsibility is denied because of a lack of possibilities to act, often there seems to be no other option than to detach. Vice versa, a witness who decides to act, and words can be a deed in this sense, breaks the moral distance and becomes an actor in his or her own right.
To be able to act as a witness, having the potential to become an actor, a person needs a sense of what will be good and what will be bad, in order to anticipate an intended effect of one’s action. In on- and offline places where culture is shared, the witness can be aware of the morality around him/her and will know what is good and what is bad for well-being and survival. When a witness does not know the morality of the context in which one witnesses, the witness will be hesitant to use the capacity to act upon what is witnessed because there is no sense of social safety around.
To be a witness and to be part of the negotiation of trust and truth, human beings need the possibility to act as well as an understanding of the possible impact of the act they may or may not do.