BEING THERE: CONCEPTS, EFFECTS AND MEASUREMENTS OF USER PRESENCE INSYNTHETIC ENVIRONMENTS
Volume 5, Emerging Communication: Studies on New Technologies and Practices in Communication,edited by: Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizio Davide, and Wijnand Ijsselsteijn. 344 pp., ISBN: 1 58603 301 8, US $95.IOS Press, Amsterdam.
RECENTLY, IOS PRESS published a comprehensive book on the study of presence in emerging technologiesBeing There, edited by Drs. Giuseppe Riva, Fabrizio Davide, and Wijnand Ijsselsteijn. This book featurescontributions from more than 40 experts in the field on topics such as reviews of the history of virtual realityand presence, various measurement tools and models for presence, the effects of presence on learning, train-ing and communication, and possible applications of new technologies and designs for the creation of pres-ence. The editors created this book to help designers and researchers develop a better understanding of how areal sense of presence can be achieved, in hopes of moving toward the ultimate goal of ambient intelligence.
Part I, entitled Presence: Past, Present and Future, provides an introduction to the study of presence andadvanced technology applications for those who are unfamiliar with the concept and previous research in thesubject area. The first chapter, by Riva and Ijsselsteijn, discusses the fact that presence has come to be closelyrelated to virtual reality. The authors discuss the difference between physical, social, and co-presence, and re-veals how increasingly advanced technology creates a progressively convincing sense of presence.
In the second chapter, Ijsselsteijn argues that, as media moves toward a greater perceptual realism, peo-ples responses to these creations are not a linear product of the extent of sensory information provided bythe medium. Rather, their reaction is instead a product of each persons previous experience with media,or their media schemata.
Next, Davide and Walker put forward a four-stage strategy for engineering presence in modern virtualenvironments based on the idea that presence is based on the evocation of pre-existing mental imageryrather than advanced stimulus in a virtual world. The four parts consist of simplification of the physicalworld, decomposition of complex situations, identification of cues capable of evoking imagery, and re-composition of complex realities.
To complete Part I, Riva goes further into the concept of ambient intelligence (AmI), defined as a per-vasive and unobtrusive intelligence in the surrounding environment supporting the activities and inter-actions of the users. He asserts that presence in AmI is not the same as presence in simulation, but ratheran increased awareness of meaning and hybridity between the symbolic system and reality.
Part II, Presence: Theory and Methods, concerns the methodology and practice behind the process of in-ducing a sense of presence. In the first paper, Marsh states that, without absorption, a users attention is shiftedaway from the mediated experience to the real world, and this disrupts the sense of presence. Therefore, pres-ence depends upon transparency of equipment and continuity of interacting within the virtual environment.
Next, Spagnolli and Gamberini suggest measuring the efficacy of a virtual environment by looking forthe existence of sequential, detailed interaction between user and environment and its cultural compati-bility. They assert that presence is a social phenomenon and should be examined based upon this idea.
In his paper, Insko puts forward the idea that, since presence has a subjective definition, it should bemeasured as such. After examining the reliability, validity, objectivity, and sensitivity of the three cate-gories of methods most commonly utilized for this purpose (subjective, behavioral and physiologicalmeasures), the author comes to the conclusion that researchers should use as many of these methods asfeasible when examining presence.
Gaggioli, Bassi, and Della Fave examine the study of presence up to the present day. The authors pre-sent two new tools for use in measuring presence: the Experience Sampling Method and the Flow Ques-tionnaire. The chapter explains how using these tools can help to define the nebulous construct of cultureand use this information in developing virtual environments and applications.
CYBERPSYCHOLOGY & BEHAVIORVolume 6, Number 6, 2003 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
The final chapter in this part, by Zhao delineates a difference between presence in a remote environ-ment and presence in a virtual environment. He uses this distinction to illustrate the necessity of mergingthese two ideas and creating a synthetic environment that combines remote and visual presence throughtelecommunications and presence technology.
Part III, called Presence in Practice: Applications, reveals the possible uses for studies in and tech-nologies that develop presence. First, Davies et al. apply presence research to participatory design, theprocess of mutual learning and collaboration of experts and end users to create a design specification thatcan be used to construct a final project. The authors argue that, if the participant is willing, the task willtake over, overcoming limitations of hardware, software, and graphic representation.
Second, Mantovani and Castelnuovo discuss the idea that learning potential and the efficacy of virtualtraining relies not only on presence, but also on absence. Feedback and support after mistakes is crucial tofacilitate recall in real-life situations. Thus, the shift between presence and absence is what makes virtualreality training effective.
After that, Da Bormida and Lefrere display the three forms of mobile-supported user presence: antici-patory, super-real, and retrospective. This framework can be used for future research and development.
In his article, Grigorovici presents the empirical findings from a research program studying informationprocessing consequences of presence in virtual environments. Results show that immersive virtual envi-ronments could be more effective persuasion channels than classical advertising media.
Farschian writes about presence technologies for informal collaboration. The author argues that main-stream presence research thus far has only been on formal interaction, and this is detrimental to wide-spread use of presence technologies. The ideal solution to this problem would be a system in which vastlydiverse presence applications could work together.
In their article, Waterworth and Waterworth offer an approach to how presence can be applied to elicitcreativity. The article concerns the evaluation of presence by using the Focus, Locus, and Sensus modeland examines how Perceptually Seductive Technology (PST) can be used to stimulate creativity. A novelimmersive environment called the Interactive Tent is also presented.
Next, Hoffman and Bubb discuss an empirical study that explored immersion, pictorial realism and their ef-fect on sense of presence in a virtual environment. The 77 participants found that reality appraisal and involve-ment were increasesd with immersion, but this was selectively and strongly influenced by pictorial realism.
Social Presence: Creating a Common Ground, Part IV, looks toward the future of the study of pres-ence and ways in which culture affects its efficacy. In the first chapter, Cottone and Mantovani establishthat learning involves collaborative social processes to stimulate meaning-making capabilities, and suc-cessful collaboration requires that learners share awareness. The authors examine the limitations of dis-tance learning systems and present several options that can be used to augment these systems.
Markopoulos et al. submit research conducted (two case studies) to understand requirements of the el-derly for informal social telecommunication media. The authors argue that computer-mediated commu-nication systems should aim to complement rather than replace physical visits.
In Chapter 19, Heeter et al. offers new telecommunication technologies that could extend participationin social groups for homebound and mobility-limited persons. One such tool, the Telewindow, was exam-ined, and it was found that, though the new tool was not a substitute for face-to-face communication, sub-jects felt that it offered a great advantage to their life.
Next, Manninen analyzes the interaction forms in a contemporary multi-player game. He found thatplayers tend to communicate outside the game system and try to overcome the limitations in imaginativeways, indicating a need for interaction support.
Finally, Boucouvalas presents a real-time communication interface that enhances text communicationby detecting emotions from real-time typed text and displayed appropriate facial expressions onscreen inreal time online. The tool greatly augments traditional computer-mediated communication methods.
Overall, the book is wide-ranging and informative, dealing with numerous aspects of the study of pres-ence. Being There is easy to navigate: each of the four parts has several chapters under its subject area, andeach chapter begins with an abstract and an individual table of contents that makes it easy and fast to findwhat is needed. It is an invaluable resource for any researcher or clinician in the field.
Mark D. Wiederhold, M.D., Ph.D.
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