Presence at ICA 2004 – Proceedings

(Tele)Presence: Theory and Measurement

A presence event co-sponsored by the Information Systems division of the International Communication Association (ICA), the International Society for Presence Research (ISPR), and the Media Interface &
Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Labs

at the annual ICA conference

May 27-31, 2004

in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

A double session Friday, May 28, 2004 from 3:45 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. (followed by dinner!)

For more information please contact Matthew Lombard.


The concept of presence, variously defined as a sense of ‘being there,’ a ‘sensation of reality,’ and more generally as ‘an illusion of nonmediation,’ is being examined by a growing international community of scholars in diverse fields from computer science to philosophy, but the concept has particular relevance to communication. This double panel features presentations by and discussions among scholars at the forefront of work in this area. The first panel considers important theoretical issues regarding presence phenomena, while the second panel focuses on the increasingly diverse and sophisticated tools and approaches available to presence researchers who need to measure presence responses. Participants and interested audience members are invited to dinner following the panel (location to be announced at the session).

The paper titles, authors/presenters and abstracts for the two panels are below.

Introduction: Defining and Theorizing About Presence
Matthew Lombard
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
International Society for Presence Research (ISPR)
Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab

This presentation will serve as an introduction to the panel. The proper conceptual definition, and even the proper term, for presence have been the subject of extensive discussion and debate. The different perspectives, the degree to which they represent terminological vs. substantive disagreement, and their potential to hinder advances in presence theory and research, will be considered. To address the issue regarding advancement of theory, the presentation will propose attributes of an ideal theory of presence and assess our progress in developing such theories.

Presence Theory in the Realm of Spatial Orientation
Frank Biocca
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab

Spatial presence (also known as physical presence) is often defined simply as the “sense of being there,” the illusion of being inside the mediated space. Recent theorizing on presence has attempted to unpack the psychological mechanisms that help generate this illusion in media as diverse as books and virtual reality. The presentation will review current models of spatial cognition and presence, including those that posit two contributing mechanisms, one driven by attention and mental imagery, the other driven by preattentive perceptual processes such as those involved in spatial updating. The presentation will also suggest that these mechanisms may be essential to any form of representation.

Shifting Perspectives in Communication Media: Social Presence and Connectedness as Complementary Notions
Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn, P. Markopoulos, J. van Baren, and N. Romero
Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands

A central vision driving today’s telecommunication research is the one of transparent immediacy: communication media attempting to simulate the real-time face-to-face situation as closely as possible, thereby engendering a sense of being together, or social presence. In contrast, the emergence and proliferation of email, instant messaging and SMS indicate a need for low-bandwidth, asynchronous, informal communication systems, enabling people to stay emotionally connected. Such communication needs may not be best served by systems emulating physical proximity. We investigate how telecommunication devices may support light-hearted, effortless interpersonal communication, helping people to stay in touch, to maintain peripheral awareness of each other’s whereabouts and activities over extended periods of time. In this paper, we present the concepts of social presence and connectedness as complementary notions, each relating to a different set of media properties that serve distinct communication needs. Based on existing literature and empirical work from the ASTRA project, we discuss user requirements and evaluations for home awareness systems.

Presence Theory in the Realm of Social Interaction with Technology:
Computers, Computer Agents, and Beyond
Prabu David
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab

In a series of cleverly designed experiments, Reeves, Nass, Moon and colleagues have demonstrated how people orient to computers in ways that are similar to human interactions in social contexts. The tendency of humans to apply social rules and norms in human-computer interaction is referred to in the literature as the CASA (Computer as Social Actor) effect. Reeves and Nass argue that the human mind, so attuned to human-human interactions over years of evolution, resorts to this default mechanism when placed in a human-computer interaction context. Elsewhere, Nass and Moon have argued that a social orientation toward a computer is a “mindless” response. While both these explanations have currency, further research is required to understand whether the underlying cognitive mechanisms in human-computer interactions are similar to mechanisms involved in human-human interaction. Using Searle’s Chinese Room argument against the Turing Test, I argue that there are qualitative differences between human-human interaction and human-computer interaction, and that the focus of future research in this area should be to identify the boundary conditions at which human-human interaction differs from human-computer interaction. Constructs such as intentionality and fairness seem to be promising markers to examine the differences between human-human and human-computer interaction schemas and I will present some data to support my arguments.

Presence and Reality: Making Media Experiences Conceptually Real by
Getting Beyond Sense Perceptions
Michael Shapiro
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA

A great deal of attention has been paid to the sensory aspects of mediated experiences, in particular computer games and game graphics, to enhance their realism. Conceptual definitions of presence also focus on the sensory aspects of the feeling of being there. However, for older children and adults much of their sense of realism is based on conceptual thinking, not just sensory processing. This presentation will consider what we know about these more conceptual aspects of reality perception and how can they be used to create the computer games and other media experiences (e.g., VR) of the future.

Measurement of Social Presence: The M.I.N.D. Lab Social Presence
Frank Biocca
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab
Chad Harms
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Mediated social presence has been defined as the degree to which a user of a communication technology feels that another human being or intelligence is accessible and co-present via the medium. There is general acknowledgement that compared to face-to-face interaction, the level of social presence varies across media. There is far less agreement on how to measure social presence. This presentation will review criteria that have been proposed for a successful measure of social presence and efforts at devising useful, valid, and generalizable measures of this challenging but valuable construct.
Measuring Behavioral Correlates of Social Presence in Virtual Encounters
Gary Bente, Sabine Rüggenberg, Bernd Tietz and Silja Wortberg
University of Cologne, Germany
Media Interface and Network Design (M.I.N.D.) Lab

Although questionnaire data can provide relevant insights into the psychological processes underlying the experience of social presence they are restricted to the measurement of ‘high level responses’, i.e. conscious effects that can be identified by self observation and that can be easily verbalized. As in face-to-face communication, however, we have to expect for virtual encounters also low level processes, i.e. transient and subtle perceptual and emotional responses that can hardly be described by the interlocutors. This paper addresses methodological issues inherent in measuring behavioral correlates of social presence focusing on aspects of visual attention and emotional involvement. Methods for the registration and analysis of eye movements, gaze direction and psychophysiological arousal will be introduced. Data from observation studies comparing video and computer-animated social stimuli as well as data from avatar-based communications via the internet will be presented pointing to distinct low level and high level responses to virtual characters.

Implications for the Measurement of Presence from Convergent Evidence
on the Structure of Presence
Jonathan Freeman
Department of Psychology (and i2 media research ltd.)
Goldsmiths College, University of London
As the study of presence (“a perceptual illusion of non-mediation yielding a sense of being there in a displayed scene or environment”) matures, a consistent structure is emerging. From different starting points and using different methodologies converging evidence points to presence being composed of three key dimensions, relating to a “spatial” dimension, an “engagement” dimension, and a dimension relating to how consistent the media experience is with the real world, “naturalness”. Taking account of its structure in developing subjective measures of presence will result in more reliable and valid measures. Moreover, the search for reliable objective indicators of presence has a greater chance of success if researchers make explicit the dimension of presence to which an objective indicator may relate. In this presentation, the
convergence in views of the structure of presence will be demonstrated, and links between the three dimensions outlined above and potential objective indicators will be suggested.

The Neuropsychology of Spatial Presence
Lutz Jäncke and Petra Jäncke
University of Zurich, Institute of Psychology, Division Neuropsychology, Zurich, Switzerland

Spatial presence is a concept explaining the experiences and perceptions which are associated with the perception and imagination of spatial stimuli. A fundamental problem in spatial presence research is the question of how to measure spatial presence. Mostly, questionnaires of various types are used to quantify the subjective spatial presence experience. Although there is no doubt that spatial presence experience is a covert experience it is nevertheless difficult to measure it on the basis of questionnaires. With the advent of modern brain imaging methods it is now possible to measure the cortical activation pattern during spatial presence experience. Applying these techniques we were able to demonstrate that spatial presence experience is based on the activation within a distributed cortical network. In this presentation we will demonstrate several of our own findings obtained with the above mentioned methods together with summarizing and elucidating models explaining the neuropsychological view of spatial presence.

Spatial Presence: From Theory to Measurement
Saskia Böcking1, Peter Vorderer2, Werner Wirth1, Tilo Hartmann3, Christoph Klimmt3, Holger Schramm1, Ana Sacau4, Jari Laarni5
1 University of Zurich, Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research (IPMZ)
2 University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Annenberg School for Communication, USA
3 Hanover University of Music and Drama, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Research (IJK)
4 University Fernando Pessoa (UFP), Porto
5 Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration (HKKK), Helsinki
[Powerpoint (in Acrobat .pdf format]
One of the most important measures of presence is the questionnaire. Different instruments have been introduced; however, they are based on different and partly implicit theoretical assumptions. The MEC model of spatial presence has been proposed as a theoretical framework for the unification and simplification of the existing presence research. It has been used to develop a standardized questionnaire for the measurement of spatial presence. It covers the different concepts that are addressed by the model and therefore consists of various subscales, for example to measure involvement, suspension of disbelief, and the actual experience of presence. We will present findings from pretest studies that were conducted to develop the scales and point out connections between them and related user traits and states. Moreover, we will discuss advantages and disadvantages of questionnaires in general and possible problems arising out of this for the measurement of spatial presence and its related constructs.
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