1. Extending the Self through the Tools and the Others: a general framework for presence and social presence in mediated interactions

Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizia Mantovani

The concept of “presence” originated from and was diffused by a technological scientific community at the same time as the introduction of a unique piece of communication technology, teleoperators: robots controlled from a distance by a human operator. In this case the term telepresence refers to the human operator’s sensation of being present in the remote location in which the teleoperator is situated. However, different recent neuropsychology studies suggest that presence has a key role in our cognitive processes: it is the the outcome an intuitive metacognitive process that allows us to control our actions through the comparison between intentions and perceptions. Specifically, presence has three critical features that cannot be explained by other cognitive processes.First, presence "locates" the Self in an external physical and/or cultural space: the Self is “present” in a space if he/she can act in it. Second, presence provides feedback to the Self about the status of its activity: the Self perceives the variations in presence and tunes its activity accordingly. Third presence allows the evolution of the Self through the incorporation of tools: tools do not enable us only to extend our reaching space, but when successfully mastered become part of a plastic neural representation of our body that allows their use without further cognitive effort (intuitively). In this way we can focus our cognitive resources on actions that are not only related to the here-and-now, improving the complexity of our goals.
The concept of presence concerns the subject and his or her ability to act in the world: I am present in a real or virtual space if I manage to put my intentions into action. But how does one connect to the Other? How does the Other become present for the subject? The recent discovery of mirror neurons - a class of neurons that are activated both during the execution of purposeful, goal-related actions, and during the observation of similar actions performed by another individual -suggests the existence of a second selective and adaptive mechanism, “social presence”, which enables the Self to identify and interact with the Other by understanding his intentions: it is the the outcome an intuitive metacognitive process that allows us to understand the actions of an enacting Other through the comparison between the expected intentions and perceptions. In other words, from an evolutionary point of view, social presence has three functions. First, social presence enables the subject to identify the Other and to attribute to him an ontological status – “the other similar to the self” – different from the other objects perceived. Second, social presence allows interaction and communication through the understanding of the Other’s intentions. Third, social presence, permits the evolution of the Self through the identification of “optimal shared experiences” (Networked Flow) and the incorporation of artifacts – physical and social – linked to them.

2. Altered, expanded and distributed embodiment: three categories of Interactive presence
John Waterworth, Eva Waterworth

This chapter outlines three proposed categories of interactive presence, and outlines the main design challenges raised by each. The first category, termed altered embodiment, refers to the way technology allows us to experience the world with modified or enhanced senses. If one hears (what would naturally be experienced as) sights and looks at (what would naturally be experienced as) sounds, what becomes of ones sense of being present in the world, of ones bodily relation to it? The second category, termed expanded embodiment, refers to technology pushing the envelope of the mental body in which one feels present, out beyond the physical body. This involves the incorporation of information technology as part of the self, implying a change in the boundary between the self and the non-self, the other that constitutes the world around one. Finally, distributed embodiment refers to how the sense of being present in the world can be separated from that of ownership of a particular body, through the development of new approaches to deploying the technologies of virtual realization. If I do not feel myself to be in my own body, then who am I and where am I present? These three categories of represent progressive stages in the sense of interactive presence. They are key concepts for understanding possible ways in which designed interactive experiences will affect and continue to change our experience of the world and of our own bodies in the future.


3. Measuring presence in the simulating brain
Daniel Sjölie

The subjective nature of the sense of presence makes it difficult to relate it to objective measurements. One tempting possibility is to target the neural functions underlying subjective experiences by measuring brain activity, using methods such as functional MRI. The technology and expertise necessary has become relatively common over the last decade, and a few studies have been conducted to measure what happens in the brain in connection to a varying sense of presence. However, how such measurements should be interpreted in this context, and how they should be related back to presence in theory and practice, remains an open question. For example, explanations that focus on specific brain areas are not conclusive since most areas of the brain have been shown to be involved in many different cognitive functions and brain function is heavily influenced by context.
This chapter focuses on how a description of the brain as an organ for simulating its environment can inform and illuminate a discussion about brain measurements in connection with the sense of presence. Suggested general principles for brain function, such as the free-energy principle, have implications for how presence could, or could not, be measured in terms of brain activity. This chapter focuses on a discussion of the implications, if the simulating brain is accepted as a working hypothesis, rather than on arguments for these theories of brain function, which can be found elsewhere. Such implications are related to how measurements can be connected to some of the most common theoretical descriptions of presence, and to a brief review of previous brain measurement studies that have investigated presence.

4. A Framework for Interactivity and Presence in Novel Bodies
Andrea Stevenson Won, Antal Haans, Jeremy N. Bailenson, Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn

Researchers are beginning to explore the consequences of interacting with virtual worlds using non-human bodies. As virtual environments become more advanced, it is possible for participants to interact with their environments in increasingly sophisticated ways. Using trackers, users can control multiple avatar limbs in order to manipulate objects, move through space, and otherwise act in the virtual world. However, these avatar bodies need not conform to the normal human configuration, either in their appearance or in the way the tracked movements of the user are rendered to control the movements of the avatar. In this chapter we use the framework developed by Haans and IJsselsteijn to investigate the experience of self-presence in cases of nonhuman avatars or avatars that otherwise differ in ability or control schema from the user’s own body; for example, avatars with more than two arms. We focus on cases where participants inhabit avatars in which the veridical mapping between tracking and rendering is disrupted.


5. Social Presence and Hyperpresence: Implications for Community Awareness
John M. Carroll, Patrick C. Shih, Blaine Hoffman, Jing Wang, and Kyungsik Han

A prominent issue in community informatics is community awareness: The awareness of community members of activity in their community. Community awareness helps community members understand and appreciate their community, motivates them to participate and reciprocate, and evokes feelings of empathy, intimacy and solidarity. In this chapter we analyze community awareness technologies as helping community members feel more present to others and feel that others are more present to them. We draw upon several design investigations of supporting community awareness through aggregation of RSS feeds and Tweets, digital cultural heritage, volunteer efforts, and fieldwork understanding community awareness designs in the Livestrong health community.

6. Measuring social presence in team-based digital games
Matthew Hudson, Paul Cairns

Increasingly, digital games offer sophisticated multiplayer experiences with teams of players able to play against “the computer” in raids or against each other in a variety of team matches. Social presence is therefore an important part of the playing experience. However, existing measures of social presence in games lack the sophistication to deal with these more diverse gaming situations. This paper describes the development of a new questionnaire to measure the complex nature of social presence in digital games. The resulting questionnaire consists of 39 items with two main modules addressing competitive and collaborative components of social play.


7. Recreating Leisure: How Immersive Environments can Promote Wellbeing
Henry Moller, Harjot Bal, Kunal Sudan, Luke R. Potwarka

Virtual reality and holistic healthcare may appear as oxymorons on first blush. Yet, a novel paradigm in immersive media technology that seeks to enable an induced state of wellbeing, by creating uplifting states of consciousness rather than generating aversive stimuli or presenting cumbersome tasks for users is now within reach for clinical application. Demand for innovative and patient-centered care to alleviate stress-related and psychosomatic conditions is certainly high in medical settings. A mental health treatment modality that is effective, safe and free of adverse effects is a desirable set of criteria not only from a patient’s perspective, but also from the perspective of clinicians who provide healthcare service to patients. As boundaries between real and virtual, technologically mediated and ‘organic’ states of consciousness continue to blur, the need to address this convergence in a therapeutic paradigm is increasingly relevant and warranted. We review the scientific rationale, clinical study results and user feedback from patients who have undertaken a standardized course of sensory-based technology-enhanced multimodal meditation (TEMM) to therapeutically address symptoms in a psychosupportive paradigm. Relationships to physiological parameters of human consciousness, rationale to support replicable and evidence-based application in supporting health and wellbeing are reviewed. The relevance of leisure states to wellbeing and specifically positive experiential learning through inspirational/motivational shifts in consciousness are described as an important health promotion avenue to pursue.

8. Mediated psychotherapy: The uncanny stranger in the room
Sheryl Brahnam

VR psychotherapy is now a bona fide treatment option for many psychological disorders, with some of the greatest successes coming from VR exposure treatment (VRET) for phobias, PTSD, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Presence, to quote Meyerbröker and Emmelkamp, “is considered a condition sine qua non for successful virtual reality exposure therapy”: if the virtual environment fails to present stimuli that provoke anxiety in clients, then the VRET treatment fails.
Of upmost importance, however, in most psychotherapy modalities (humanistic, feminist, psychoanalytic, relational, and cognitive-behavioral) is the client-therapist relationship, which is developed mostly through oral communication. As more VR applications are developed from within these modalities and as more therapy sessions become technologically mediated, understanding presence as it relates to communication and the therapeutic relationship will become increasingly important. My intention in this chapter is to explore what the psychoanalyst Carlino calls communicative presence, defined as “the feeling of presence in a situation of distance communication” (p. 104), as it might relate not only to telepsychotherapy but also to VR psychotherapy. I will examine the writings of several psychotherapists who have experimented with distance psychotherapy and discuss some reported effects of mediation on client-therapist communication and the impact this has had on the therapeutic relationship. I will also isolate and examine some candidate variables influencing communicative presence, make suggestions for augmenting and safe-guarding communicative presence, and suggest how these ideas might have wider relevance to HCI and the sense of presence in computer-mediated encounters.

9. Cope with stress and anxiety: the role of presence in computer mediated environments
Daniela Villani, Pietro Cipresso, Claudia Repetto

Several studies in the last decades have demonstrated that exposure therapy is an effective way to treat anxiety and stress and Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) acts as a completely controlled experience.
A new perspective is represented by the use of VR for triggering a broad empowerment process to learn coping skills and emotional regulation to cope with stress and anxiety.
The link between these approaches is constituted by the sense of presence. In this view, the experience of “being there” is influenced by the ability of “making sense there” and by the possibility to learn by living real experiences in computer mediated environments.
Thanks to the integration of several advanced technologies (virtual reality, advanced sensors and smartphones), as supported by the ubiquitous approach, is possible to take advantage by the sense of presence and to overcome actual limitations of existing protocols for psychological stress and anxiety. Furthermore, a larger availability of unobtrusive biosensors make today possible an effective measurement of the presence (and the related affective states) during the interaction instead of using post-experience self assessments.
Future computer mediated platform will provide the following advantages: 1) increased accuracy in assessment of ongoing intervention processes; 2) ability to correlate specific mental states with specific activities executed into the environments; 3) ability to study the variables related to stress and anxiety in the framework of simulations representing realistic situations and daily contexts, increasing the ecological validity of gathered data.


10. Does gender matter? Exploring experiences of physical and social presence in men and women
Anna Felnhofer & Oswald D. Kothgassner

It has repeatedly been suggested that gender may play a constituting role in the formation and experience of presence when interacting with a mediated environment or with a virtual character. However, studies looking into possible gender differences in presence are still scarce at best. Also, existing studies use environments with a differing degree of interactivity (e.g. television, video games, simulators etc.) thus, producing conflicting results. This diversity of methods and ambiguity of findings both call for a more thorough literature review to be able to draw valid conclusions and to add to a more robust theoretical basis. Therefore, this chapter will first outline past research on gender differences in both, social and physical presence. Here, the focus will especially lie on virtual reality applications commonly used for social interaction or therapy purposes. Accordingly, two studies will then be described in more detail: the first study looks at male and female presence experiences in a student sample when delivering a speech in front of a virtual audience. The second study expands its scope and focuses on gender differences in both, younger and older adults when interacting with virtual characters in a collaborative virtual environment. Overall, the results indicate an advantage of men over women regardless of their age in physical but not in social presence. It becomes clear, however, that there might be a range of factors (e.g. empathy, spatial abilities etc.) mediating the relationship between gender and presence. The conclusion will discuss these factors and elaborate recommendations for future research.

11. The Experience of Presence in Persuasive Virtual Environments

Jesse Fox, Kate Christy, Mao Vang

The examination of presence is important as previous studies have shown that the subjective experience of presence can impact the effectiveness of virtual treatments (Villani, Riva, & Riva, 2007) and the degree to which these stimuli translate into real world behavior (Fox, Bailenson, & Binney, 2009; Persky & Blascovich, 2008; Price & Anderson, 2007). In this chapter, we will explore three components of presence (self, social, and spatial; Lee, 2004) and how they relate to persuasion in virtual environments. Relevant theoretical approaches including Blascovich’s (2002) model of social influence in virtual environments will be discussed. We will also elaborate on studies examining the experience of presence in virtual environments designed with various persuasive goals, including health (e.g., Bouchard, St-Jacques, Robillard, & Renaud, 2008; Skalski & Tamborini, 2007), advertising (e.g., Li, Daugherty, & Biocca, 2001; D.-H. Shin & Y.-J. Shin, 2011; Yim, Cicchirillo, & Drumwright, 2012), policy (e.g., Guadagno, Blascovich, Bailenson, & McCall, 2007), education (e.g., Allmendinger, 2010; Caudle, 2013; Mikropoulos & Strouboulis, 2004), work collaboration (Bente, Rüggenberg, Krämer, & Eschenburg, 2008; Ratan & Hasler, 2010) and other contexts. We will draw upon this literature to develop practical suggestions for designing virtual environments to cultivate presence while also achieving persuasive goals.