Connecting mediated presence

Synchronization between different locations of mediated presence and synchronization between natural and mediated presence creates powerful experiences. During the GHP the connection with the Russians, New Zealand and also with the ANC, for example, had an impact on the people present. This was even more the case during the 0+Ball. The network internationally, and locally in Amsterdam, where nurses from the hospital would visit Paradiso, and the synchronization between events in San Francisco and Amsterdam Ñ in Paradiso, the hospitals, the private homes and in public locations Ñ made the awareness of being part of 'something happening' more profound. Even though synchronization can be approached and experienced in this way, whether it can be achieved in a strictly logical sense remains open to question.

Mediating context is logically impossible. Nevertheless, people need to contextualize to understand what they perceive. Previous knowledge and opinions (including prejudices), media schemata and processes of attribution define how people receive and contextualize the mediated presences they perceive. When trying to mediate context, the mediation of an atmosphere is one of the hardest things to achieve. An atmosphere is an environment in which one breathes and acts, it gives a sense of what is possible next and is highly dependent upon natural presences.

When mediated presence generates vital information that reaches people in their own situation, the mediated presence adds elements to natural presence which natural presence otherwise would not have possessed. Generating vital information is one of the strategies that causes mediated presence to be embraced. However, the context has to be perceived as trustworthy. Vital information forms a bridge between mediated and natural presence in a very convincing way.

Vital information can be very mundane: buying tickets, Internet banking, exchanging love letters. But it can also be very elaborate as in finding out about state-of-the-art pharmaceutical drugs and where to obtain them, or being able to listen to Internet radio in Sarajevo under siege. For information to be vital, it has to touch upon our natural presence physically or socially. Mediated presence, which generates vital information, will ultimately have this effect.

When natural presence and mediated presence are synchronized in a situation that is witnessed, then drama in a theatrical sense can evolve. I refer here to the moment when Captain Crunch spoke to the Russians, for example. For drama to evolve the content has to be exciting and the format has to facilitate the experience. On the other hand when Jan Ruiter literally flew in from San Francisco at the end of the 0+Ball, which I imagined would be dramatically interesting, this did not turn out to be the case despite the fact that the content he brought was interesting to us. Because of this study I have realized that catharsis occurs locally. A drama, or a dramatic storyline, is experienced in natural presence over a certain period of time. Any orchestration in personal lives, or in public events, includes the making of choices. Things will be forgotten or will be discarded to make the story work. Mediated presence can be part of this, but the distinct experience of the drama is inside the person who is together with (and witnessed by) other people during that period of time. Only those who spend the duration of this time together can experience the catharsis. Mediated presence can provide input, but catharsis is bound to natural presence, to being here, now and with you, as I argued previously. When, on the contrary, mediated presence does generate a sense of place and people do spend the duration of the time in this mediated place, catharsis possibly could take place even though anyone involved is only connected by way of mediated presence. I almost fear writing these words because so many evangelists of information and communication technology have confidently promised these possibilities for over two decade. Many stories are told, but to really understand how catharsis and a sense of place develop via mediated presence much more research has to be done and experiences have to be gathered.