Call: Witnessed Presence issue of Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication


AI & Society: Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication (Springer)

Guest Editors: Caroline Nevejan (Delft Technical Univ.); Satinder Gill (Cambridge Univ.)

Submission of papers: February 20th 2010 – Review: April 1st 2010  – Ready for print: June 20th – Publication date: Oct 2010. Submissions to: nevejan(at), spg12(at)

Papers are invited from engineering, social science, philosophy, architecture, psychology, art & design, performance arts, IT. Interdisciplinary work is appreciated. Paper, book, and conference reviews are also welcome.


Witnessed presence is fundamental for social structures at large. In law, in communities, in businesses and organizations the persona of the witness is distinct. In most judicial systems the witness has to be sworn in. By doing so the witness accepts responsibility to speak the truth. In other words, being witness involves accepting responsibility for what happens next. When being witnessed, any act becomes a deed and the witness has the potential to interfere and can testify about the deed (Nevejan 2007). Philosopher Kelly Oliver argues convincingly that the capability of witnessing – to witness, to bear witness and to be in dialogue with one’s inner witness – is fundamental to being human (Oliver 2001).

To better understand how witnessing is shaped, with and without the use of technology, seems to be crucial for a better understanding of how human beings and systems collaborate in communities they share. Oliver concludes in her philosophical study that witnessing needs three requirements that have to be met between the witness and the one who is witnessing for testimonies to be true (and not false): response-ability, address-ability and transparency of subject positions (Oliver 2001). Ekman, from a cultural studies perspective, emphasizes the need to focus on the host, who welcomes the witness and whose witnessing is defined by a specific political cultural context (Ekman & Tygstrup  2008). Nevejan, from a sociological perspective, suggests the use of the Yutpa framework in which four dimensions of time, place, relation and action define possible social structures in which negotiating trust and truth emerge (Nevejan 2009). Communities, organizations and societies negotiate trust and truth all the time and this deeply influences the social structures that evolve and the ethical understanding of those social structures (Silverstein 2004). Witnessed presence significantly contributes to the negotiation of trust and truth (Nevejan 2007).

The performing arts have been concerned with mediating presence through orchestration, dramatization and choreography for many centuries. Insights, knowledge and skills have been passed on through direct transmission, from person to person, and from generation to generation. Current technology mediated presence design faces similar challenges to the performing arts: how to set a context, how to induce attribution and imagination, how to show the unsaid and more. But some issues have changed radically with the introduction of digital technology: human beings can have sensual synchronous experiences while not sharing the same place, people can connect and possibly act in places where we are not present, and all mediated presences can be copied endlessly and will last forever. As a result, new ways of tacit knowing and embodied dialogue evolve (Gill 2007).

These old and new questions are not only relevant for the performing arts, but for many professional realms that have to deal with on- and offline collaboration that has dramatically changed the way in which people interact, do transaction and witness each other. This special issue of AI & Society will further explore the notion of witnessing to better inform the design of current and future communication and transaction environments in the evolving technological culture.


Brazier, F. & Van der Veer, G. (2009) Interactive Distributed and Networked Autonomous Systems: delegation oarticipation. (

Ekman, U. &Tygstrup, F. (2008) Witness, memory,  representation and the media in question. Museum Tusculanum Press,  Copenhagen.

Gill, S.P. (2007) Knowledge and Embodied Performance. In Gill, SP (Ed) Cognition, Communication and interaction: Transdisciplinary Perspectives of Interactive Technology. HCI Series, Springer, London.

Nevejan, C. (2009) Witnessed presence and the YUTPA framework. In  PsychNology Journal ‘Ethics in Presence and Social Presence Technology’, Vol 7.1

Nevejan, C. (2007) Presence and the Design of Trust. PhD diss.,  University of Amsterdam

Oliver, K. (2001) Witnessing, beyond recognition. University of  Minnesota Press, Mineapolis/London

Silverstein, M. (2004) “’Cultural’ Concepts and the Language-Culture  Nexus”. Current Anthropology. 45(5): 621-652.

Instructions to authors:

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