The potential of presence design

A comment on my intertwined role as designer and researcher is in place. As designers, my colleagues and I have explored the potential of presence design over several years, by refining ‘what works’ and by developing our design prototypes, from applying them to new contexts, following the generic prototyping methodologies that characterize design practices.[11]

One could say that in each new project, we ‘tick off’ criteria such as those proposed by IJsselsteijn (2004: 165), to check that it still ‘works’. However, our focus is on refining the combination of spatial and technical design that facilitates mediated interaction. Therefore, several of the design concepts I discuss here are based on a solution that enabled mutual gaze in mediated interaction, which already ‘worked’ 10 years ago, but which we improved over the years.

As a researcher, in turn, I reflect upon the different design experiences and use them as examples in an explorative study concerning the wider implications of presence design in relation to architectural design. With the a priori knowledge that mediated spaces can serve knowledge sharing, I theoretically explore its potential for practices where trust is an essential factor. This is, for example, the case in collaborative work and learning practices, where practical knowledge is at the core. Thus, by establishing that mediated workplaces can support knowledge sharing effectively, I propose an extension of the discourse in workplace design. I discuss how presence design can contribute viable solutions to knowledge management. Central here is the concept of shared mediated space, established as part of the experience of remote presence and founded in the exchange of audiovisual information.

Witnessed mediated presence cannot be ensured by design. However, by acknowledging that certain features are related to spatial design, the presence designer can monitor them and, in effect, seek to reduce the ‘friction’ that otherwise may inhibit the experience of mediated presence. This notion of ‘friction’ relating to spatial design will be introduced below, as part of a discussion on the potential for knowledge sharing and remote presence in collaborative work practices. My expanded use of the term – design friction – is an attempt to identify concepts related to spatial design which, unaddressed, may be said to impose friction and thus impact negatively on the experience of presence. The term design frictions thus summarizes my contribution to presence research: It consists of identifying such design concepts that may impact on the experience of mediated presence and thus benefit future practitioners and presence design research.

Of the spatial design frictions that I have identified, I will briefly illustrate a few—e.g. mutual gaze, spatial montage, shared mediated space, off-screen space—using two examples below.[12] The first is designed by my colleague Aase Schibsted Knudsen, currently a presence designer in Norway.[13]

Note 11: As formulated by Herbert Simon (1969) as well as Donald Schön’s concept of a reflective practitioner (1983).
Note 12: The above discussion and notion of design friction is further substantiated in my doctoral thesis where I apply the concepts to mediated workplaces I have designed for different user contexts. I provide a history and theory of presence design on the basis that similar aesthetic concepts have been used previously in related visual practices (Gullström 2010: 149ff).
Note 13: The designers behind the event represent the Shared Virtuality research group of Lillehammer University College, led by Professor Schibsted Knudsen as part of the project Television in a Digital Environment (; cf. Knudsen and Puijik 2009). LongPen Signature Solutions™, also contributing to the event, declare that 1.2 tonnes of carbon emissions were saved (