Our paths diverge
life takes us to the empty places
past presences have been here
but are lost

I touch the brown crackled wallpaper
feel past hands touching
toes echoing
forgotten footfalls

absenT Presence         


Alan Dix, Jennifer Sheridan, Simon Lock, plus about 20 others @ lancs
and Geoff Ellis @ huddersfield

Lancaster University, Computing Department, UK
on the web: < @alan > < @jenn > < @simon > < @geoff >


Position paper for EQUATOR Record and Reeuse workshop, 12 & 13 February 2003.
Download full paper (PDF, 158K)

Full reference:
A. Dix, J. Sheridan, S. Lock, G. Ellis (2004). absenT Presence. Position paper for EQUATOR Record and Reeuse workshop, UCL, London, 12-13 February 2003..
Download full paper (PDF, 158K)
Scrapheap (computing) challenge (@ Internet Archive)
.:thePooch:. ... lots of fun work in performance arts
Alan's pages on visualisation, essays on imagination and rationality, and pages on research and innovation methods
web site

Cyberspace is lonely, each web page or document is empty. And yet cyberspace connects, mobile phone and IRC. Like a solo yachtsman we chatter on the shortwave, but the sky touches ocean all around. We connect to distant places, but follow fellow-less paths.

Many environments are like this, repeatedly inhabited over time, but where individual visitors may be alone; some are virtiual such as web pages, some physical such as museums. Can we augment these environments so that visitors can in some way sense the presence of those who have gone before ... and also so that the visitors' own presence is in some way is taken forward for others. For example, lights might playon a gallery floor following the footsteps of past visitors.

We call this sense of past presence ‘absent presence’.

This paper describes two experiences in absent presence. One is a collection of ambient visualisations on the theme absent presence produced by a one-day 'competition' at Lancaster, the Scrapheap (computing) challenge. The other is a web visualisation Quntim Web Fields, which attempts to give a view of human visition to a web site.

keywords: presence, co-presence, awareness, web visualisation, extreme design

Alan Dix 15/2/2004