Co-presence, social presence and witnessed presence

Individual performance of presence is affected and inspired by other people’s presence. In 1963 Goffman introduced the notion of co-presence, to refer to the situation in which we perceive others and in which we can sense that they perceive us (Goffman 1963).

This research continues today. Researchers are still studying and measuring under what conditions co-presence emerges in virtual environments and augmented reality applications and is accepted by people acting in these environments (Nowak & Biocca 2003)
In communications theory, social presence in social interaction using media and telecommunications refers to the differences in spheres of intimacy that a phone call or a face-to-face meeting for example generates (Short, Williams & Christie 1976). Social presence is one of the pillars for educational design in blended learning contexts (Whiteside & Garret Dikkers 2012).
Co-presence and social presence do not address the issue of the establishment of truth and trust, both fundamental to understanding what happens next in any social situation. Being and bearing witness to each other is historically the social structure in which truth and trust are negotiated. Nevejan argues that witnessed presence is fundamental for establishing trust both in the online and the offline world (Nevejan 2007, Nevejan & Gill 2012). An action that is witnessed becomes a deed. The witness can intervene in the course of events and can bear witness and testify which may change the understanding of the deed. Witnessing, as a way of having presence that includes the acceptance of responsibility for words and deeds, includes notions as address-ability, response-ability and clarity of subject positions (Oliver 2001). It also appears that to be witness includes to self-witness. The artistic research project Witnessing You concludes that ‘self-witnessing’ is fundamental both to the process of being witness and the process of bearing witness (Nevejan 2012). The same conclusion is drawn in VR research into being-there (Slater 2014).

CN , Frances Brazier