Post by Hannes Vilhjalmsson on Jan 28, 2009 9:30:05 GMT -5
Now that we have introduced the concept of Presence, think of the various media and technologies that you experience or make use of in your everyday life. Is Presence an important "feature" of that medium or technology? Think both in terms of physical presence and in terms of social presence. How well do you think Presence is supported? Could it be improved? Do you think greater Immersion would improve the particular medium or technology you are thinking of?
Post by Stefán Freyr on Jan 30, 2009 11:32:09 GMT -5
I believe that I have the strongest physical presence with TV and movies. Content made for these mediums are designed to captivate the audience whether these are TV shows, movies or documentaries. I can confirm for my part that immersion does play a role in this medium to a large extent. The bigger the screen the better. A 3D experience at the movies adds to my feeling of physical presence (especially when I sit next to my kids in scary scene where worms are crawling towards us). For some reason though, a romantic comedy in 3D makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. In that case the added immersion would not probably not contribute much to my sense of physical presence (although I've never experienced a 3D romantic comedy... to my knowledge there are no such movies... and there must be a reason for that, someone must be thinking the same thing). I also try to see action packed movies or movies where grand cinematography plays a big role in theaters while I'm quite happy watching most drama flicks in my TV or even on my computer screen.
My strongest social presence is probably when I listen to talk shows or interviews about matters that interest or concern me (except of course if I'm having an interactive conversation with someone over the phone or the internet but for now I'm sticking with the non-interactive medium for the most part). Even though I can't participate myself I do get agitated when I disagree and I feel relieved when I agree with someone on the show.
Newspapers are usually where I feel the least presence. Mostly I read factual news stories that do nothing but convey information. To a large extent, this is how I use the internet as well. There are of course stories that I get carried away with, these stories are mostly in depth personal interviews of interesting people.
After the above brainstorm, I think I've come to the conclusion that the content of the "world" I'm "attending" is probably more important to me than the means with which they are communicated. Immersion contributes somewhat to my physical presence _as long as the technology used for immersion is as close to being transparent as possible_. I would feel uncomfortable if I had to wear a 3D helmet at the movies but glasses I can deal with (I'm used to having to wear those).
Social presence however, is much more related to the content I'm consuming. I can be drawn into a fascinating novel and feel present. My imagination fills up what is lacking in immersion. I might be confusing the feeling of being captivated with the notion of presence but to me the two are closely related. For me, the captivation is often enough for me to feel present.
When I read a news story or a research paper on the other hand, I don't feel very present. That usually becomes a chore of obtaining information. I often quite enjoy this chore, but I rarely (if ever) feel much presence.
Improving the immersion might possibly add to my sense of presence in some situations (such as the movies) but a requirement is that the technology used is not cumbersome.
There are many technologies and mediums that I'm not touching here but this has become long-winded enough.
Post by David H. Brandt on Jan 31, 2009 4:46:06 GMT -5
Just as Stefán Freyr, I certainly feel strong physical presence in TV and movies. The presence of any of these mediums in a room capture my attention so completely that I am almost entirely disconnected from the real world, failing to hear, see and participate in my actual surroundings. Immersive properties do matter here, although today's equipment far surpasses my immersive needs. For example, a 14" screen can easily enthrall me, but just the other day my son managed to switch the output of my digital decoder to NTSC, resulting in a grainy, black-and-white picture, which I found easy to resist (although it was impossible to resist fixing the problem). My high-end home-theatre sound system however adds little to my immersion, and likewise I find the cinema adding nothing to the experience.
Computer games provide me with a much stronger sense of physical presence however, immersing me to such an extent that the boundaries between real and imagined sometimes become inverted, sometimes to the extent that I find my mind adding "meat-space" solutions to in-game problems. In such cases, immersion quickly breaks down due to the inconsistency in "in-game" and "out-of-game" solution space.
Books are however by far the strongest source of physical presence for me, as far as entertainment goes. A good 3.000 page triology-or-more can immerse me so deeply for days on end that I barely surface to eat or sleep, and when I do, my wife invariably complains that she can feel that I am not actually present.
There is however another form of virtual reality that does enthrall me on a daily basis, called "hack mode". Hack mode is described by the "hacker's dictionary" as "a Zen-like state of total focus on The Problem that may be achieved when one is hacking." (Note that "hacking" does not refer to cybercrime in the hacker's dictionary).
While coding, I routinely find myself "physically" present within the system. Out of the corner of my eyes, I can see the system's components, processes, design patterns and datasets. If I reach out my hand, I can almost touch them. Within my mind, I "physically" travel within the code, relocating my presence as needed to find the gaps where code is missing or faulty. While immersed, I barely see the "real world" interface (consisting primarily of text files, tree controls and other primitive window controls).
It can be emotionally painful to exit abruptly from this world.
"Immersion" also plays a part in this "cyberspace", although a more abstract one. For example, programming languages, coding styles, design patterns and environments that do not adhere to one's sense of aesthetics can break one's focus. Likewise other factors such as lack of familiarity with the environment, language or over-all system design. System response time can also affect immersion, f.ex. if it takes a long time to rebuild your code after changing our code. In such cases you may have exited "hack mode" and thus have to re-immerse yourself to continue debugging.
As for social presence, I could be considered "present" in a number of technological environments, including Facebook, LinkedIn, MSN, email, the phone system and the corporate wiki. I do not however usally experience "social presence" via these environments, but rather see them as necessary evils.
I am not very experienced in the computer game industry but the strongest physical presence I can remember is when flying on Harry Potters broom in a PlayStation game. I think it had to do with the fact that before the flight one has to set the controls (which button to push to go up etc.). Greater immersion would probably increase my presence-feeling in this game environment, but not very much I believe.
I feel emotionally present when watching tv and movies. I even avoid horror, violence and some thriller movies/tv shows because of this. I think greater immersion does improve the tv/movies medium but I believe that greater immersion will really start to matter when interactivity with the medium grows. When for example one uses the whole body to interact in the medium.
But just as David I feel the most emotional and physical presence when reading a good book. Then I am just swapped away from reality. But I don't particularly like detailed descriptions of the environment but like to fill in the details with my imagination. This implies that the immersion created in my head is the most affective one.
I feel like I am somewhat participating in social activity on Facebook, email and this wiki, for example. But it doesn't replace the real thing, by far! But communication through these mediums add variance to social presence. I would for example probably not tell you in detail the things I have written on this wiki now in class!
I'd say it varies depending on context, content and presentation. I think everybody has watched movies where the presence becomes so great that it actually becomes a form of immersion. Think about some horror movie you watched when you were young. But as we see the same things over again, we become disconnected with these events/actions, and the presence is reduced. Try watching the movie you thought about again, and see if you re-live the same experience.
This can also be seen in games. As I mentioned in class the other day, the game Doom3 made me feel a very strong presence. I only played the demo, but for me, that was enough to realize that the game borderlined on blurring fiction and reality. The presence felt was such that I was later told that I'd swayed and moved in my chair with every turn and move I took in the game.
But presentation is a tricky thing. For one, one size doesn't fit all. Therefore you can survey any target group and find a certain percentage that didn't feel any presence at all. One movie springs to mind - "The 13th floor". On its second day in the movies, about a quarter of the movie guests walked out in the pause. They felt the movie was "long winded and boring". I have seen the movie again since and found that the pause imposed by the theatre actually had a negative impact on the story.
So for what it's worth, I think that when planning any kind of material (movie, game, etc), planning the presentation to keep the focus of the audience is a very important part, although not quite trivial.
For those that still read novels, I recall that "The Neverending Story" (book, not movie) had a very strong presence. What the author does to present his material is to have the reader "re-live" what Bastian reads - and Bastian is "re-living" what he reads (so we have recursion )
Speed is a factor as well - as with the 13th Floor - present delays in the storyline and the consumer may become bored. Keep the pace too tight and the consumer may become disoriented.
In bad or damaged storylines, or a film with a lousy cast or director, helping measures like 3D may be an aid in elevating the experience, but as will all things qualitative, such aids will only help badly presented material "so far".
I'll start out with the virtual environments. In the book "Rules of Play" (a really good work on computer game design that I can recommend to anyone interested) the authors coin the term "immersive fallacy" for the opinion that in order to achieve highest presence it is necessary to maintain a strong "suspension of disbelief", i.e. make the user/player forget the interface and the degree of abstraction employed by the simulation. The authors argue that meaningful play rather requires a layer of metacommunication that allows the players to ensure that their actions, while real in the virtual environment in which they take place, do not have the same meaning outside of it. Furthermore, the realism (or maybe presence) a user feels is not directly related to how close the simulation is to the simulated processes in reality, but to how much the user feels that the actions undertaken in the simulated environment yield results that are consistent with the user's expectations. And this the tricky part of designing games. I once read about a racing game prototype which simulated the experience of the real driving it referenced so accurately that only a real professional race driver could play it well. Even though the simulation was accurate (and maybe all the perceptional cues were pretty realistic as well so as to properly provide high immersion), its behaviour diverged so greatly from what players expected from a driving game that for them it was not realistic and they did not feel present. This does not mean that the level of immersion is not relevant in an interactive application, merely that it is secondary to how much the user feels that they can perform meaningful actions in a consistent world.
Regarding TV and Cinema, the situation is probably a bit different. By watching a movie we become observers who cannot interact with what they see happening. We can still feel disconnected to a bad plot in a 3D cinema and highly emotional about an enticing black and white movie on a CRT, but greater immersion (in a darkened cinema with a large canvas, for example) will usually also increase the observer's physical presence.
With books, a different logic applies. They are what McLuhan would definitely call a "cold" medium, one that requires a high degree of active participation by the consumer; we typically have to use our imagination a fair bit when reading a book, whereas while watching a movie we generally just fill in what is required for the plot to make sense to us. Because we participate so much, we are almost automatically present. If this process of filling in feels tedious we usually just stop reading the book.
The presence a consumer/user of any of the mentioned media feels is probably a combination of physical presence, which can be heightened by increasing the feeling of control and by improving the definition (graphics, resolution, descriptiveness), and of something like "semiotic" presence, i.e. a feeling that what is happening makes sense and is of relevance to us.
Social presence is a special case and is, it seems, only relevant in multi-user-environments; there, however, the expressiveness of the other users' representatons is important for creating such social presence. A good example is the PS3 game "Little Big Planet" which features a control scheme for very well-done comic-style mimics of the customizable "sackperson" avatars - it is impossible not to react to these sackpersons when their users make them laugh or cry.
Post by gudleifur05 on Feb 1, 2009 17:14:01 GMT -5
Overall I think presence isn't that much of an important feature in the technology I use everyday. At least it does not occupy a lot of those things. An exception from this are games where presence is an important feature for me.
Regarding whether presence is supported enough or not lies in the ability of the technology to capture the user. What I mean by that is that the brilliance behind the idea of the technology does matter much more than implementation of it. To further explain my point let's look at computer games. In my opinion computer games capture much more presence if they have a good storyline and demand a cognitive thought from the user than just having good graphics and sound. Poor (and even good) graphics and sound could be restricting the imagination of the user thus decreasing the presence.
Until virtual reality gets to the stage of creating a 100% stimuli for the senses, if it does ever, there will always be an extra demand of cognitive thought to create presence.
Post by Eirikur Ari Petursson on Feb 1, 2009 17:45:30 GMT -5
Like previous comments indicates that most physical presence that i have experienced are in tv and movie's but also in some kind of a form of video games. For example a game called lands of lore the throne of chaos witch i played very often when i was a teen. In that game i got usually so excited and was living my self in that way i really felt like i was physical and mentally in this fantastic world and often had to take a break from the game because the suspense was so great i nearly could´t take it.
For my social experience for now and then is just like msn and facebook. In msn you usually can feel like the person is having conversation with you is right in front of you. But facebook i don't now, it really feels like you are browsing for some private stuff from another person. Then again it raises your social awareness in that way it makes you really feel like you are in contact with some persons you haven't seen in many ears and just pop up there to add you. I think also because the mind can really be f**ked up (for many people) and just like a simple web community like facebook can really manipulate people minds for the good or worse.
When thinking about physical presence, I am immediately taken back to my childhood playing my Nintendo games. When I think about whether or not games have to be realistic to get you fully immersed, I remember myself with the nintendo gamepad with the buttons "A" and "B", playing a two dimentional race game and every time I turn I sway my body to the right and left, trying to make the turns.
Of course now that I'm older it takes alot more than that. Is it that my current experience with cars renders me unable to feel as present as I did then, was my mind more open to what I was experiencing then? Why does age play such a big factor in my immersion level?
I do feel physically present in games now too, but I'm not jumping out of my seat when I jump in the game. I was going to say that it takes more now, but after thinking about it, I might not be so sure. Those little brain intensive flash games let me forget about real life, I once won a really hard level while in class ( I should have been paying attention to the teacher, I know) and as I won it my hands flew into the air in excitement and a big smile rushed to my face.. it lasted for about 0.5 seconds until I realised I was in a class full of people and had just made a fool out of me...
Anyways, I also played Doom3 when it came out. I had to stop playing after about an hour or so because I was feeling so anxious, my hands got sweaty and my heart started beating faster. I've also noticed that interactivity in games help with physical presence, like the arcade machines that have the gun attached for you to shoot with, or the driver games with the steering wheel.
That brings me to multiplayer games. No-where have I felt a greated combination of social and physical presence as to when the terrorists are trying to put off a bomb and you and your team-mates use voice software to communicate and plot against the other team.
I would go into other mediums like the hot topic here of movies and stuff, but I think this is enough for my two cents.
Like others I experience physical experience also through tv, like when I am watching a good horror movie I get scared and my heart rate increases tho I know inside it is only a movie but because the presence is so strong I get sucked in. Especially when the volume is turned up and the room is completely dark, then the only thing you can see and hear is the horror movie.
I have had lot of physical presence in a game called Quake. Like playing Capture The Flag the game can get really intense when you are holding the enemy flag and trying to get to your homebase and the other team is following you and trying to kill you. I sometimes move my head to the sides trying to avoid shots and etc.
I also played a MMORPG game called Everquest II for few years and I experienced mix of social and physical presence. I felt strong social presence when I was sending messages both in game and talking over voice program to avatars that I was looking at in game, especially avatars that were controlled by my friends. Somehow you relate maybe former experience with your friends, both experience in game and outside of the game, and that strengthens the social presence.
Post by kristjanbb02 on Feb 1, 2009 20:24:22 GMT -5
I feel almost no presence while watching TV, I'm merely as a distant observer. Once in a while I feel brief physical presence when a scene takes place in a interesting location and I try to wonder how it would feel like being there, but almost instantly snapped back. I feel there is absolutely no social presence in your typical TV content, but training videos can be strange when 'you' are being directly addressed. Especially when you are repeating physical moves, then you get sort of co-physical presence and social presence, but those are not really entertaining
Still the TV immersion can be great if the content is good and I don't think presence is needed for most TV content. The biggest exception is action/horror content were sense of physical presence can really help getting the adrenaline flowing. I wont mention horror movies because they usually snap me out and kill the immersion and for most part not that interested in that genre.
I belive most TV material doesn't need HD, super sound or such, because those only help with the physical presence. Those are great for action genre, but for everything else form and content rule. Smooth flow and good content is what makes most TV material good imo. Nothing is more annoying than constant scene cutting and other flow breakers (bad camera work, ads, bad acting). Also while good effects and backgrounds are better they can subtly omitted and implied (rather than showing a bad effect) the brain will do a wonderful job of filling in the blanks.
All in all. HD, 3D, surround, bigger, etc is good especially for action, but not as important for TV as we are lead to think by the marketing department.
Games on the other hand is where I feel physical presence and even social presence when playing with people that I know. Lately I'm particularly interested in the social presence. It become clear to me that customnation of players is very important, even floating names help a lot. Anything that allows you to quickly recognize a player and associate it with some identity, not just another clone.
I've played games with and against people that I know and as soon as they have a different quickly recognizable look it actually feels like they are in there with you. As soon as other people come in with the same customnation the social presence instantly breaks down. You know that they are there, but it doesn't feel as much as they are.
This had me wondering for some time why many fps games do not offer better player customnation. As soon as another player is no longer just a teammate or enemy, but THIS teammate or enemy the experience becomes a lot better imo.
Also I mentioned physical presence in games. I belive it is almost required for both immersion and to be able to really be good at the game. We are poor at interacting with something distant and remote, but soon as we feel we are there we are much better at it, that is my believe.
I've tired 3D stereo briefly with games and all that it did at the time was give me headache, but then again so did 3D projection on 2D when I first played fps game on a computer. All in all I more depth can only help with physical presence leading to more immersion.
But is high immersion necessarily good? I don't know. It certainly doesn't equal more entertainment, but it can.
Using those definitions I could say that I only get narrative and sensory immersion (and rarely spatial) while watching TV while games give you much wider range. Adding tactical immersion and spatial immersion also strategic immersion in some cases.
While watching TV/Movies, playing computer games or even listening to music, I usually find myself easily immersed. I also usually feel a strong presence while watching TV/Movies. In my opinion it's also easy to increase the presence/immersion with external factors like turning down the lights completely.
The equipment used is also a big factor in my opinion. I've got a decent home theater setup at home with a 110" projector screen and a nice sound system which greatly adds to the immersion. I remember that when I played 3d games on that system with the lights completely off I'd frequently get shivers down my spine whenever something unexpected happened.
I believe that something that brings that much presence/immersion when experienced on that kind of equipment can be completely lacking if a 21" TV is used, so it's not entirely up to the software/movie being "used", although it of course has a lot to do with it.
Personally I think that I feel the most immersed when i'm a lone in a dark room playing some shoot'em up 3d game. All tough i think I'ts become more difficult when I've grown older, I remember when I was 13 or 14 being very scared when playing the first doom game, but when I played the 3rd game in the series, witch has better graphic is way more realistic and scarier than the first I did not get that same feeling of immersion.
Post by Hrafn Þorri on Feb 13, 2009 5:06:19 GMT -5
Considering some of these replies, I think many will agree that presence has a lot to do with being focused and staying attentive (being present); does it stand to reason that it can be achieved with virtually anything that keeps a user's attention from breaking?
There's an unbalanced emphasis on graphics versus the 'gameplay' element in mainstream games for my taste. There's only so much that water-reflections can do to keep my attention. Especially when it comes at the cost of functionality, intelligence of enemies or richness of experience in general: there's a balance of storyline, uniqueness, graphics and interactiveness that keeps me attentive, and it's only then when my heart races with the games' narrative. Getting a user to keep his 'head in the medium' and wondering about as broad a range of things within it as possible: that sounds like immersion to me.
I feel most immersed and present when reading. Although I remember coming close with more than a few video games, there's always a sense or two missing from the experience. Reading (imagining) can irritate all of the senses—often times you can hear someone's voice, feel the chill of a snowy day—but games rely mostly on vision and hearing. While there aren't sufficiently advanced AR/VR-related technologies to support the pretty graphics (oh, and I'm still waiting for an "AI card", like a graphics card) then I doubt I'll find them rivals to my imagination.