I propose a project in which mediated experiences are understood in terms of the user’s absence from the consciousness of the real, current, physical world.
This project not only inverts the notion of presence, familiar to critical research concerned with mediated experiences, but it also switches the area of concern by asking: What makes us absent in our non-mediated experiences? It is concerned not so much with how we engage in such things as social media, but rather asks why we dis-engage with the immediate reality of everyday existence.
The project is underpinned by a hypothesis:
A user absentees from their current reality when an opportunity arises that offers them the ability to project their desires into the future.
In this hypothesis, the mind is understood to be an instrument of time. That is; the mind has concepts of both the past and the future, and any thinking it engages in necessarily involves those concepts.
Lombard and Ditton (1997) propose a brilliantly succinct definition of presence: the illusion of non-mediation. Within their elaborations on presence they identify various modes. One key mode is social presence, in which social realism engages without any necessity for perceptual realism. Of course, social networks such as Facebook provide a high level of social presence. In so doing, they also provide a high level of absence from the non-mediated reality.
Perhaps unlike presence, a high level of absence can also occur without any mediated reality. The above hypothesis holds: absence is caused by the opportunity to project one’s desires into the future. A mediated reality is not necessary for the world to offer an individual the opportunity to project their desires into the future.
This project aims, in part, to examine how mediated experiences might intensify opportunities to project one’s desires into the future. Ultimately, however, the intent is not to understand the mediation of experience, but rather to understand absence from the consciousness of the real, current, physical world.