At the Heart of It All: The Concept of Presence

Authors

  • Matthew Lombard,

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor in the Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media and a faculty member in the Mass Media & Communication Doctoral Program in the School of Communications and Theater at Temple University. His research centers on individuals' psychological and physiological processing of media presentations and experiences. Among other projects he is currently conducting a large-scale content analysis of the structural features of television.
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  • Theresa Ditton

    Corresponding author
    1. Theresa B. Ditton earned her doctorate from Temple University in May 1997. In her dissertation she examined the role television presentation characteristics play in inducing memory errors which lead viewers to unintentionally use memories of mediated experiences when evaluating real world phenomena. She continues to conduct research on the psychological processing of mediated experiences, and is exploring ways to apply findings to the development of critical viewing curricula.
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Matthew Lombard, Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media (BTMM), Annenberg Hall (011–00), Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122.

Theresa B. Ditton, Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media (BTMM), Annenberg Hall (011–00), Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122.

Abstract

A number of emerging technologies including virtual reality, simulation rides, video conferencing, home theater, and high definition television are designed to provide media users with an illusion that a mediated experience is not mediated, a perception defined here as presence. Traditional media such as the telephone, radio, television, film, and many others offer a lesser degree of presence as well. This article examines the key concept of presence. It begins by noting practical and theoretical reasons for studying this concept. Six conceptualizations of presence found in a diverse set of literatures are identified and a detailed explication of the concept that incorporates these conceptualizations is presented. Existing research and speculation about the factors that encourage or discourage a sense of presence in media users as well as the physiological and psychological effects of presence are then outlined. Finally, suggestions concerning future systematic research about presence are presented.

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