Absence in non-mediated experience

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.


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5 Responses to Absence in non-mediated experience

  1. Marc Lavallée says:

    How can we be absent from the “real physical world”? For example, is a house or an apartment like a “shelter absence” technology, to protect us from our environment and surrounding people, and is a “virtual presence” technology like the telephone, also a form of absence technology because it promotes distant people as more important than present people?

    • Hi Marc, the absence is intellectual … or perhaps emotional. It is perhaps best understood as ‘distraction’.

      J’essaye de trouver comment l’exprimer en francais … il doit y avoir un mot qui l’explique bien …

  2. Marc Lavallée says:

    I’ll trying something else. My father told me: “Il y a des expériences qui consistent à ne pas faire d’expériences”; it relates to ascetism, or withdrawal. Would that be a pre-condition to experience a distracted absence from the “real world”, in order to project our desires in the future, without the help of a “pharmakon”?

    • Hi Marc,

      Interesting idea. My way of understanding it would be to say that if committing to ‘withdrawing’ occurs as a result of some belief that doing so would be “good” then it necessarily involves absence ( a forward projection of desires).

      • Marc Lavallée says:

        Yesterday I was told by a video artist that light is a perception of the past (because light takes time to travel), and that our future is in the obscurity, so we should protect ourselves from too much light…

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