“One of the common dissatisfactions with interactivity on the Web is that telepresence is not, well, presence. Certainly some of the more interesting new media projects have deconstructed our assumptions concerning presence and the sense of “really” being there. But, when it comes down to it, we are faced with the experience that you and I in our separate computer-hovels chatting over CU-SeeMe, is not the same as you and I having drinks in a cozy bar. This difference has prompted talk of a qualitative difference between two essentially different modes of communication and interaction, each contingent upon a variety of factors (technology, class, cultural difference, race, geography, language, etc.). The “noise” that often comes through is not just technical, but
can also be social.
Part of the problem of computer-mediated communication has to do with the status of the body in the interaction–or rather, the state of “embodiment.” We all want our communication and interactions to be as transparent as possible, and there is a sense in which physical presence plays an important part in giving us that feeling of authenticity, of transparency. But how do we address the importance of embodiment when dealing with technologies such as the Web?
This is one of the main questions in Ken Goldberg’s new anthology, “The Robot in the Garden: Telerobotics and Telepistemology in the Age of the Internet” (MIT Press, 2000) Using the term “telepistemology” to talk about how knowledge is transmitted, produced, and circulated on the net, Goldberg has assembled a collection of different perspectives on tele-robotics, as both a technological and a cultural issue