Main issues of controversy on the notion of Presence as a value for design

A first issue of controversy is that presence is a fuzzy concept. Most measurements in the ‘being-there’ approach to presence design are concerned with effects of certain media configurations focusing on a reported sense of presence. Where does presence as a phenomenon start and where does it end? What is the opposite of presence?

Not having presence may not be the same as being absent or having/performing absence. How can presence be defined to make distinctions possible between more or less, better or worse, real or false presence? The notion of witnessing sheds light on these issues, but does not make hard distinctions possible.
A second issue is the controversy of how presence is considered – as a result of human consciousness or as part of human consciousness. The notion of presence differs between the variety of social sciences and natural sciences, between deterministic and more holistic approaches. Also the role of emotions and the role of imaginations in processes of presence is approached differently. This regularly leads to misunderstandings.
A third issue concerns design trajectories of presence in complex systems. Inducing and deducing dynamics in virtual simulations and serious games requires rigorous analytical skills and an associative/creative capacity at the same time. Results often only shed light on a specific dynamic given a set of predefined rules and variables. Nevertheless, these simulations and serious games inform real life processes in which real people participate. The gap between simulations and serious games and real life situations is considerable and has to be taken into account. In cyber therapy this gap is used to induce healing processes in individuals. When complex systems assist in matters of life and death, as in crisis management systems, or more mundane applications as in railway systems, unintended side-effects can have dramatic effects. Virtual simulations and serious games are unable to anticipate how individuals will act and be witnessed in extreme situations in their strive for survival and well-being. Such unexpected side-effects are matters of concern.

CN , Frances Brazier