Phase 1: The first proposal
Phase 2: Text Laboratory 1: stories art and technology
Phase 3: Literature: presence research
Phase 4: First sketches: theoretical context and conceptual framework
Phase 4: Text Laboratory II: stories on several networked events
Phase 5: Literature: STS and case study research
Phase 5: Text Laboratory III: thinking actor
Phase 6: Literature: Human Rights
Phase 7: Second Sketches: conclusion and conceptual framework
Phase 8: Writing chapter 2: Establishing theoretical framework
Phase 9: Writing chapter 3 and 4: Doing two case studies
Phase 10: Writing chapter 5: Analysis and conclusions from three perspectives
Phase 11: Writing chapter 6: Proposal YUTPA
With hindsight the research process of this study has been a consequent building of an understanding of presence as a phenomenon. The interaction between creative writing and analytic reading and writing has been fruitful. After Text Laboratory I and II, I decided to ground the research in two exploratory case studies. I chose to analyse the Galactic Hacker Party (GHP) and The Seropositive Ball (0+Ball), two networked events that took place in 1989 and 1990 (chapter 3 and 4). The choice of these two cases is grounded in the fact that they took place before the Internet became a commodity. No habits concerning the use of networks had been shaped, no shared understanding had yet been formulated. The technology was relatively ‘raw’, for which reason basic issues surfaced easily that in later days would become much harder to perceive. From a personal point of view I realised through the writing in Text Laboratory I and II that I had learned lessons from these events, which influenced my work in later years profoundly. But I never explicitly formulated or analysed what perceptions had triggered this understanding.
Together with other people, I conceptualised and produced the GHP and the 0+Ball from the context of Paradiso, a musical venue of international reputation that also hosts special conferences with a social and cultural agenda. During the production of these events I put all papers that passed over my desk into folders. This facilitated the collaboration between the different people who were involved in the production. In these folders many personal notes, contracts, reports of meetings, sketches, correspondence and financial details are to be found. In hindsight the twelve folders and two archive boxes, over 2000 documents all together, contain a rich source of original material. This is not a historical study though. I only used this material to shed more light on my research question.
When I eventually did the case studies, only in phase 9 after I had formulated the theoretical background of this study in chapter 2, it turned out to be a real adventure. In the archive boxes there were more than 2000 documents. The confrontation between the recollections that I recorded in the stories and the original material triggered many more insights than I had expected. I realise with hindsight that because I had previously formulated my memories and perceptions they had a pre–defined influence on the analysis of the original material, which also made the analysis surprising to me. For this reason, the researcher today has more distance from the actor I was at the time. By formulating my personal perceptions before analysing the data, my personal involvement had less influence because the stories from Text Laboratory I and II had become data as well. I had not previously realised the effect that the use of the methodology of techno–biography provides. The distance between the former self and the current researcher increased because the former self was properly addressed. Because it was addressed, the shape and colours of the former self were defined and therefore its influence was known and could be analysed. The stories from Text laboratory I and II inspired the “Reflections” that I wrote after every case in chapter 3 and 4 as well as having informed the proposal I make in chapter 6.
Text Laboratory III, on the thinking of the actor, had a different dynamic. In this Text Laboratory I focused on my understanding of myself as actor through the years and confronted this with literature. The two networked events that I analysed were highlights in my career and as a producer I have learned a lot from them. This Text laboratory inspired the perspectives of analysis of the cases that I present in chapter 5 as well as informing the proposal that I describe in chapter 6.
The very act of describing a case already includes analysis. As much as emergence is involved, what is described is of course determined by the research question. But because the ‘dense’ descriptions of the cases allow for many detailed insights, I decided to conduct a second round of analysis. In chapter 5 I consciously match patterns and confront different explorations and explanations with each other. I needed to do this to extract more clear conclusions, which would help to give me a better understanding of the research question. I needed to find out whether the theoretical framework I had built in chapter 2, would actually work when applied to the case studies. Because of the work in Text Laboratory III, I decided to undertake this analysis according to three perspectives: the perspective of presence, the perspective of collaboration and the perspective of the actor. The normative character of this study in particular was addressed through this analysis. It clarified the motivation as well as the implications for the proposal that I make in chapter 6 to be aware of the specific relationship between time, place, action and the person, people or systems that one is communicating with and consciously design the YUTPA, this specific relationship, in every product or process in such a way that the human dignity of all the human beings involved is respected.
Some conclusions may sound trivial to certain professionals who work in the field of information and communication technologies. I choose to include those conclusions because information and communication technologies have become so embedded in many areas of everyday life that we often do not realise the obvious. Presence as a phenomenon is easily taken for granted. Because I am concerned with the design of presence I also want to include the obvious, because choices are made ‘in the obvious’ too.