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Social Interaction Design Research: Reading Notes

Reading Notes: Presence Theory

Summary: Reading notes on theories applicable to design of social software and social media. Concepts from presence theory, sociology, linguistics, online interaction and performance enrich our theory of user interaction on Web 2.0 sites, social networking sites like,, and more

These reading notes were taken while researching source material and conceptual frameworks of potential use to social interaction design, an approach I'm developing for use in the development and design of social software, interaction tools, communication technologies and their applications.

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What is proximity online? What is "being close?" What is "distance" when all is a click away? Is it attention? Visibility? Popularity? What new forms, part social, part psychological, part signifying, part technical and functional, emerge online to constitute new proximities?

We don't yet understand, and I don't think we have the language or framework yet to explain the manner in which technologies disembed and then reembed social practices. Presence theory examines presencing through technologies (inspired by virtual reality), but it's model is too spatially focused, and its notion of presence, too preoccupied with distortions of the physical, and of physical representation. I don't think that representation is the key problem. We need a view of presence that accommodates linguistic interactions, action and communication, economic and symbolic transactions, and other practice-based forms of social reproduction.

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