Industrial and commercial research: to market new experiences

In the media labs of large technological corporations around the world, and especially and foremost in the USA, the mediation of presence has been the focus of attention. In Bell labsnote 38, where telephone technology was developed before World War II, the research that has been conducted can be understood from a presence research perspective. Since digital technologies became part of commercial interest in the 1970's, fundamental research into presence has been done by companies like IBM, Xerox, Hewlett Packard, SUN, Apple, Nokia, Intel, Motorola, Sony and others.

In the research labs, scenarios were produced in which the users of possible future technologies embedded these into their day-to-day lives. How does a hairdresser operate in 2025? (Interval demo, 1996), How does a teacher communicate with a student in the rain forest? (Apple education, 1993), How can I buy a goat for my mother in Nepal via the Internet (Intel, 2005). In conferences like CHInote 39 , about human computer interaction, Siggraphnote 40 , about the newest technologies, The ASPEN Design Summit and Doors of Perceptionnote 41, about technology and its design, and many other conferences, the strategic designers of these companies share their insights in such a way that it does not threaten the companies' plans but does facilitate new connections that may be interesting.

In the commercial realm products have to be developed with the intention of ultimately being successful in the marketplace. This puts pressure on people in the research labs. Within a limited amount of time they have to prove the possible value of their insights. And they also do their utmost to perform well in the competitive environments that labs provide, and often develop elaborate ideas about applications for their work. In the end the marketers often decide what will go into production and what will not, and in judging possible markets they influence possible research. In a Doors Conference in India in 2005, Younghee Jung, Nokia designer, presented her change of heart as regards the dilemma concerning privacy and mobile phones. Where as previously she would not even propose the design of certain things because of the privacy protection of the users. Because of the pressure of the market and her experience that people accept more or less anything, she decided to give up this 'old fashioned' restriction that she used to impose upon herself.

The market and research are in constant interaction in the field of commercial research and influence one another. Nevertheless, many researchers feel that their personal sentiments about ethical behaviour, educational implications and social repercussions are often not taken into consideration.note 42

Small technology companies have also contributed to presence research. In the nineties there was a lot of talk about 'the killer application', because of the potential financial gain. With the rise of the Internet, its search engines and communication facilities, the 'killer application' appeared to be 'people' and people have presence, which can be mediated by technology. Many small companies that have been, and are, developing Internet applications try to capitalize on this insight in the hope of becoming big companies when they succeed. The 'Californian ideology' (Barbrook 1997) of becoming a successful dotcom company has stretched many small companies' capacity, often at the expense of their workers (Gill 2002).note 43 A classical Wired Magazine story would run like this: "there are some male youngsters in a place, they have fun and get this great idea, they get hooked on the idea and work around the clock. They put their 'stuff' on the Internet and suddenly thousands of people start using it. They run into an investor, a 'business angel' as they were called at the time, and they form a company with him. They hire many people, do not pay well but promise options based on expected 'future value'. Then they go public and the youngsters become millionaires or billionaires andƒ live happily ever after". The truth is that some succeeded, and many did not.

Fundamental research into presence for the entertainment industry „ music, film, games, TV „ has a different character. Where the previously discussed research into presence is also the result of a scientific and engineering tradition, the entertainment industry stems from the fairground and the arts. Trial and error and artistic genius, combined with good production values, makes things happen. Digital technologies play a crucial role in today's entertainment industry. The research carried out in the entertainment industry is subject to the dynamics of culture, economy and is subject to the dynamics of technology development. It is a field in itself and will not be elaborated upon here.