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Telepresence in Popular Culture

An analysis of portrayals of presence experiences in popular fiction to reveal hopes and fears for future technologies.

Many scholars are studying presence, including how to measure it, what characteristics of technology evoke it, its effects on people, etc. At the same time, technologies that can evoke the experience of presence in users are increasingly available to and popular with the public. And even though the term itself is rarely used, presence has become a common topic in popular culture - in films (e.g., The Matrix), on television (e.g., the various Star Trek series), and in literature (e.g., William Gibson's Neuromancer). We believe much can be learned from a systematic analysis of portrayals of presence in popular culture (i.e., portrayals in which fictional characters experience one or more types of presence), including a better understanding of:

  • the possible forms and contents of future presence-evoking technologies and experiences
  • the types of presence-evoking technologies, experiences and applications that people want
  • the types of presence-evoking technologies, experiences and applications that people fear
  • the reasons humans desire presence experiences
  • the different ethical issues and perspectives raised by advanced presence-evoking technologies
  • the degree to which fictional portrayals have accurately predicted the form and content of new technologies

We've developed a coding instrument for a qualitative content analysis of portrayals of presence and linked a web page containing the instrument with a database to which entered information is stored. As the database of information about these portrayals grows, we'll examine the data for meaningful patterns.

from 2005-10-14 to 2008-02-01
Matthew Lombard

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