Last night I was reading danah boyd’s post about how some people log on to IM to mark presence, while others only log on when they want to chat, and how the cultural difference causes tension, especially since it’s entirely invisible to those who log on simply to chat and assume everyone else does too.

Watching IN Network a similar thought occurred to me. There’s a stream of communication, but even when we can look at every single bit of communication and contact between two lovers (because it is all electronic and therefore accessible) the meaning of it evades us anyway. A conversation between lovers is uninteresting to others (“Tell me about your day?” “What kind of dinner did you get?” “Italian”) – but its mere presence is crucial to the couple themselves.

Howard Rheingold observes a similar shift from communication of messages to the communication of presence in the way cameraphones are used in Japan:

The social role of the cameraphone is distinctly different from both the camera and the phone. And although these devices transmit images through the Internet, they are also turning out, rather unexpectedly, to be face-to-face media. It looks like this newly ubiquitous device could be more about flows of moments than stocks of images, more about sharing presence than transporting messages, and ultimately, more about personal narrative than factual communication. […] cameraphones represent a new opportunity to tell the story of our lives to ourselves as well as to others, and to share a sense of continuous, multisensory, social presence with people who are geographically distant.cameraphones represent a new opportunity to tell the story of our lives to ourselves as well as to others, and to share a sense of continuous, multisensory, social presence with people who are geographically distant. […] Surveys in 2003 indicated that 90% of the people who responded viewed their cameraphone pictures on their handsets, 60% used them as wallpaper for the phone screens, over 50% e-mailed them to… (via Ratchet Up

I took a little time to think this weekend. I spent a half hour actually starting a draft of an essay, and an hour or two specifically researching that topic online, and another hour or two simply drifting through blogs. I love it. I need that drifting to find connections like these, which are after all the heart of what I do. This is the kind of thinking I need to make time for in order to teach well and write well. I have to find ways to spend less time on admin and teaching so I can spend more than four hours a week on thinking.

4 thoughts on “presence

  1. torill

    This is why I grieve over ICQ. It would let me choose who could see me or not when logged in. That way I could be present to the people I might like to get in touch with, but not available to chat in general with the people who would interpret my presence as an invitation. Now ICQ has become loaded down with spam and lagging behind in the development, and the people I want to get in touch with have stopped using it. So if I want to be around for them, I need to use yahoo or aim – both of which as far as I can see lacks that particular and very neat little distinction.

  2. Jill

    I use the AIM network through iChat and it lets me choose between being visible to everyone or to people on my buddy list or to everyone except certain people or to only certain people whom I specify. I use that selective invisibility all the time, ever since I got sick of strangers pinging me.

    Mostly I switch between buddies-only and invisible-to-everyone-except-Scott.

  3. thinking machine :: drifting

    […] friend to get her skype account up and running when I came across this rather appropriate post over at jill/txt I took a little time to think this weekend. I spent a half hour actually starting a draft of an […]

  4. […] ew friends are on AIM but they’re away. But it’s a way of feeling some kind of presence. I’m at home. A little. Filed under:net culture — Jill @ 20:36 [ ] […]

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