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Transportation and Artificiality classification by Benford 1998

Telepresence / Telematics

As described by Benford[1] ( the dimensions of transportation, artificiality and spatiality play a key role in visitors experience of telepresence systems. Transportation determines “the extent to which a group of participants [...] leave behind their local space and enter into some new remote space [...], versus the extent to which they remain in their local space and the remote participants [...] are brought to them. It therefore characterizes the essential difference between the concepts of local and remote.”[1] These dimensions also play a vital role in the perception of immersive environments, as “like immersion, transportation is in principle a quantifiable property of technology.” Sheridan (in Benford) [2] The following graphics were informed by this and show the degree of “transformation” for some examples of interactive environments.

[1] Steve Benford, Chris Greenhalgh, Gail Reynard, Chris Brown, and Boriana Koleva: Understanding and Constructing Shared Spaces with Mixed-Reality Boundaries, ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, Vol. 5, No. 3, September 1998, Pages 185- 223

The term Telepresence was coined in 1980 by Marvin Minsky and Pat Gunkel. It referred to the “phenomenon that a human operator develops a sense of being physically present at a remote location through interaction with the system’s human interface, i.e. through the user’s actions and subsequent perceptual feedback he/she receives via the teleoperational technology” (IJsselsteijn, 2000) more recently its meaning has changed somewhat and it is less about the perception of leaving the local space behind but is more generally understood as “the union of telematics and elements of remote physical action.” (Kac, 2005,193) Stephen Wilson also has a wider definition and suggests that “every kind of telecommunications is telepresence - a technology for a person to be present in some form in a distant place” (Wilson, 2002, 526) adding that email was telepresent to an extent. Brenda Laurel and Scott Fisher define it as a technology ”that enables people to feel as if they were actually present at a different place or time,” (Wilson, 2002, 527) a definition that includes the change of the spatial properties of a local environment as telematic data is augmented and would thus pertain to Radiomap. For Rosenberg or Sheridan (Wilson, 2002, 527) telepresence is not complete without the ability to act at the remote location, something other researchers would define as teleoperation.

Transportation, Spatiality and Transformation

Visualized below is a schematic diagram with which interactive installations or environments that transform information and/or connect two or more places to one another can be depicted. The degree of spatiality is shown as whether the data is “manifested” on a screen only, or creating changes in the “real world”. It also clearly displays to which degree actions in the “real world” create changes on the network or remote output devices. Some connections are ‘one-way” only, others bi-directional. There are four basic possibilities: 1) connections from the real world to the real world, 2) connections from screen based applications to screen based applications; 3) from the real world to the screen 4) from the screen to the real world. Mixes of the above, installations that visualize network processes and don’t connect any “places” with one another may also be depicted in this diagram.

In combination with Benfords’ ( transportation and artificiality (indicating the naturalness of the environment or being generated of computer data) this is an expressive tool to visualize the degree of transformation of an environment – though just a beginning.

Very important is the aspect of spatiality, leaving the 2D screen behind and moving into the space. Yet this is not that simple. As Benford ( wrote before this is "a quantifyable property of technology." More screens and bigger screens create a more convincing presentation and presence. A cave or cube that immerse the visitor is more then just five (six) large screens.

Quote Benford "Understanding and Constructing Shared Spaces" please see source above:
"This concerns their level of support for fundamental physical spatial properties such as containment, topology, distance, orientation, and movement [...]. Its extremes are characterized by the notions of place, a containing context for participants; and space, a context that further provides a consistent, navigable, and shared spatial frame of reference (e.g., a Cartesian coordinate system). Unlike the previous two dimensions, that might potentially be applied to CSCW systems in general, [...]"

CSCW: Computer Supported Cooperative Work

Transformation & Spatiality in simple telematic setup's

We can regard a good, old fashioned letter as a telematic device for communicating over a distance. It is tangible and is moved physically from one location to the other.

A telephone conversation is not physical but spatial, but it is taking place in realtime, between two remote parties. Both participants can listen and speak at the same time, making the communication synchronous and simultaneous. Communicating via voice-mail would be a-synchronous as there is a timely delay between the moment a message is left and it is listened to by the recepient.

A walkie-talkie conversation is synchronous as there is an instantenous connection between the remote parties without a perceived delay. Yet it is not simultaneous as only one party can be active while the recepient is forced to be passively listening.

A webcam image (usually) depicts activities taking place in physical space at the remote location. The result is received here as a visual upon a screen.

Spatiality/ Test

Graphic is displaying Spatiality but not Transportation.
The left side is abstract - while the right size is more visually descriptive and - perhaps - does not require text.

Transportation / Spatiality Test

This graphic is a strange mix of visual description - and abstract overlay. The underlying layer is almost redundant ...

What is the relationship between artificiality and transformation?


Telematics: The dialogical vs. data transfer

Today we are sourrounded by "telepresence" devices yet usually not very aware of this aspect of their existence. They simply allow us to connect to absent people, friends and family. Becoming aware of this telepresence without telepresence effects early in my research I could not make much sense of it. Its synchronous or asynchronous (as in phone vs. email) symmetrical or asymmetrical (as in speaking at the same time or having to wait; video chat with someone with only an audio connection). Live data or stored data.
People adapt fast to the miraculous qualities of new technologies.
Even early telematic art that made use of the technolgies telephone, telefacsimily and mailbox systems was driven by this interest in connecting people and involving them in a dialogue.
Naturally the dialogue itself, its content, was less meaningful then the awe-inspiring distance that spanned between the dialogue partners. It was the awareness of this distance that created the meaning. (I recall how special it was to call our grandparents when trans-continental phone calls still were expensive.) At these occasions the medium was the content. Like two children playing with walkie-talkies, "Hello, can you hear me?" within each others earshot.
Only after continuous exposure to a new technology people indiscernibly (unmerklich) adapt and the medium as such gradually becomes transparent. Its functional and practical aspects supersede its miraculous nature. (For millenia mankind has dreamed to fly. Build flying machines and failed. Now as we can fly - we drop bombs and tourist. Monsterous treachory on this dream of our ancestors.)

Why were there no projects connecting a place to a place? A gallery connecting to traffic noise in far away cities in a different time zone? To a rainforest? Controlling the movements of a camera or watching a tree grow?
Compared to the forced and artificial dialogues these activities are more detached, observant - maybe even voyeuristic; But still intense, immersive and very personal experiences. Sometimes these imaginative experiences can even be shared: currently 3 visitors are viewing this site."

EDUARDO KAC CALLS IT "DIALOGICAL." In the early days of networked art artists seemed mostly intrigued by the possibilities of networked collaboration and semi-instantaneous communication provided by emerging technologies as telefacsimilies and early electronic mailbox systems. Little did they know that these fascinating technologies soon would be everyday devices that would change our lifes and the ways people communicate across distances. The medium and its telepresent qualities disapearing behind its ubiquitous functionality.
Their artistic work was fascilitating communication among people - not connecting places via data/information.
This can be seen in the work of Steve Mann delivering keynotes from remote locations1via live broadcast to the audience, Roy Ascott’s collaborative text production via telefacsimily "La plissure du text". As well as Victoria Vesna, Howard Rheingold, Lynn Hershman and others. All of them excited about the idea of connecting people and networked communities. In these projects, although initiated by the political idea of content and connectivity, in retrospect it was the medium that rose to importance in these projects; the telematic quality of instantaneous connection became more important then the content as such.2
Today, 02005 my iChat buddylist permanently displays a number of friends and acquaintances scattered all over the globe, they usually do not mind a short interruption from their work.
Yet, with some of these friends I often don’t speak for weeks or even months. It is their presence in the buddylist that creates a vivid sense of connectedness and closeness beyond the necessity of speech and closer contact. This indication of presence and availability seem to suffice for dialogue, it is a communication in itself.
In the early days it was the excitement for the medium and the connections it provided. Today the network is ubiquitous and considered normal. The mobile phone is used for instant communication, electronic mail for broadcasts and dialogical communication among group members.
Many people recognise that staying in touch with remote friends and colleagues becomes difficult through this permanent availability, as it is difficult to sustain meaningful relationships with a growing number of people that are hardly met in person.
Before the telephone remote people were out of reach and of the radar. In the past men and women of letters cultivated their distant dialogues, much slower and high in content then the rushed and forced-response dialogues we develop today. Patient paper. This natural flow has been disrupted.
In our restless times full of high noise-content ratio maintaining these relationships over distances technically easy but hard at the same time. How is it possible to keep meaningful relationships alive? Without damaging existing ones in the real world? Our real neighbours, butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers? We have to sacrifice some.
From the voyerism of the first webcam at Trojan Room Coffee Machine3 in 1991, to ubiquitous webcams all over the world solipsistic gaze has substituted the meaningless conversation with remote strangers.
Communities exist through shared interests among like-minded individuals like hobbies or other areas of interest. This context doesn’t exist with a complete stranger and can not be established in a without a larger time-span. So these community interests have moved to the newsgroups, mailing-lists and blogs.
The novelty character of the possibility of instant communication has gone and people have blunted to it. It is not the medium any more that excites, but the communication options it provides us with. And it is taking the awe out of our telepresence devices as they become everyday appliances.
A talented TV host can give us a great sense of addressing us directly - but imagine the shock and horror if there was in fact a back-link that would enable him to look at us in our living room, giving the viewer the possibility to react and address him as well. ("The Game").

1. Steve Mann (2001), “Visual Vicarious Soliloquy”
3. John Thackara writes in "In the bubble" (2005) of the extraordinary effect when someone spelt "Hi" on "light on the net" via the web browser. p.183
Robert Adrian about Ascott’s “Plissure du text”.”The content was in the contact.”

4. Design theorist John Thackara also acknowledges the importance of telematic technologies in contemporary media art, emphasising the close relationship between media art and network art. He adds that they had two crucial roles to play. First, their content “can draw attention to phenomena in our world that exist, but are not seen - the hidden forces [...], Second, media art can teach us new processes of collaborative enquiry.” (Thackara, 2006, 183-184) For him this “new art is collaborative and interactive” in that it brings people together to communicate, the artist facilitating this dialogue. He does not refer though to the purpose of the art to create a critical awareness of technology.

last update: 10/26/02008 13:08

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