The Internet and mediated presence

The transcendence of time and place has been a human drive for centuries. Inventions of script, printing, film, radio, television and now the Internet all facilitate the mediation of human presence to other places and other times. These media offer limited perception of the mediated thinking, sounds or visuals. However, when limited sensorial perception is understood in the context of previous experience, human beings have the capacity to con- struct a sense of presence of the mediated objects and subjects (Tokoro and Steels 2003). While accepting mediated presence as real, human beings learn to assess the variety of mediated presences in their own right. Mediated presence is a trade-off between perception and understanding of the perceived (IJsselsteijn 2004).

Human audiences, for example, have learnt that in a theatre, the train on a screen will not hit the first row, even though it seems to come right at them. During a telephone call, people know that the person at the other end of the line is real even though they only perceive sound without additional visual proof. Since the 1990s, the Internet has expanded exponentially and currently social networks facilitate 24/7 connections with family, friends, colleagues and with new contacts. Through steep collaborative learning curves, groups of people assess new possibilities and make trade-off as to how to accept these new contacts/ presences in their communication patterns. Making trade- offs is not only an individual process, it is also a communal process (IJsselsteijn ibid). Once new technologies are accepted in their own right, they become part of human organizational and business practices. Online transactions have become a multibillion-dollar business within a dec- ade. The speed and scale of the Internet not only changes time and place configurations when mediating presence, but it also offers new possibilities to relate to others and new possibilities to act.