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Dec 16, 2007

Mapping the Body: The Bodily Factor in Memory and Social Action

Via Networked Performance






Call For Papers: Deadline for Abstracts - December 31, 2007: part of First ISA Forum of Sociology - Sociological Research and Public Debate: September 5-8, 2008: Barcelona, Spain.

The body is part and parcel of the sociological enterprise. The Homo sapiens’s cultural history demonstrates that the contribution the body makes to the brain is not limited to supporting vital operations, but includes regulating the space and time which organizes the contents of a normal mind. This fundamental property enables our ‘mental ship’ to produce the sequences of movements and events which organize the topographical mapping of bodily experience.

The somato-sensory mass of the brain (Damasio, 2004:314) builds up the connections which the body’s confines compound with the environment by means of neural activity maps coordinated in time. Lacking this mechanism, we would not be able to locate our interactions with the environment or even less, utilize, in the present, the store of knowledge acquired by our bodies by touching an object, looking at a view or moving in space along a path that our bodies describe by moving. We have ancient and genetically pre-arranged circuits which regulate the body’s functions, controlling the endocrine, immunity and internal organ systems and activating impulses and instincts. Taking root is the basis of our way of acquiring knowledge. This insistence on the mind being rooted in the body as a critical factor, brings to mind the need to pay attention to the real development of our brains in the connections in which it is ‘tied’ to the technological.

All the technical resources of human inventive capacity, from the chipped flints of the Neolithic Age to the Renaissance, emerge out! of the relations between bodies, technologies and emotional life. The invention and proliferation of microelectronic technologies and the rapid pace of their constant development and application – mostly in the developed world – introduced today a new phase not only in the role of technologies in human’s life but also brought about serious consequences for almost all aspects of the individual’s life and social relations. We refer to those technologies that are now fully integrated into, and an unremarkable part of, everyday life. It also deeply effects the human body. The physical world and electronic virtual world are not separate, as much current discussions might lead one to believe; in fact they are intricately intertwined.

The present call for papers faces up to the links between social constructions of the human body and the growth of completely, immersive realities (known as Virtual Reality or VR) constructed trough computer software. Human bodies form a basis for social relationships. Although a VE (virtual environment) minimizes ambulatory experience, users interacting with virtual technologies nonetheless constitute material phenomena engaged in practices. For example, users wearing Head Mounted Displays (HMDs) confirm a sense that technologies such as VR are able to obtain a grip on human bodies. We have now a new economy of presence within which we continually choose among the possibilities of synchronous and asynchronous communication, presence and virtual presence. Therefore we need to consider the roles of virtual places as well as physical ones, of electronic connections as well as asynchronous encounters and transactions in addition to synchronous ones.

The Program of the WG03 The Body in the Social Sciences at the first Barcelona Forum of Sociology is aimed to analyzing the complex interaction between the material and immaterial aspects of electronic technologies shaping today the ‘digital mind’ by considering the body as the crucial factor making up the relations between humans, technologies and affective life. The sorts of questions that this call addresses here include: How do technologies and the body contribute to the social, while being themselves heterogeneous? What are the sorts of relations into which these social, technological and bodily entities enter? Can we draw boundaries and borders around or through a nexus of relations in order to identify particular heterogeneous bodies, and what might such an identification offer us analytically?

The sessions organized by the Working Group 03 The Body in the Social Sciences will provide opportunities to elaborate an innovative methodological framework tracing the ways in which the bodies and technologies interweave in the interfaces between off and on line. Particularly welcome are papers aimed to analyze the ‘state of the art’ in body-computer interaction and papers on the processing of memory by multiple-tasking performances.

The following areas of discussion have been identified, but further suggestions are welcome:


Nov 17, 2007

Cisco Experimenting with an On-Stage Telepresence Experience

Via Human Productivity Lab



Cisco demonstrated an "On-Stage" Telepresence experience at the launch of their Globilization Center East in Bangalore, India.  During a presentation to the media in Bangalore, Cisco CEO John Chambers "beamed up" Marthin De Beer, Senior Vice President of Emerging Technology Group at Cisco, and Chuck Stucki the General Manager of the Telepresence Business Unit from San Jose. The photorealistic and lifesize virtual duo from San Jose then interacted with the Cisco CEO and presented to the audience in India.  You can check out a video of the launch of the Cisco Globalization Center East which includes the stand up telepresence experience on the Cisco video website here:

Oct 25, 2007

Darkness-enhanced startle responses in ecologically valid environments

Darkness-enhanced startle responses in ecologically valid environments: A virtual tunnel driving experiment.

Biol Psychol. 2007 Sep 14;

Authors: Mühlberger A, Wieser MJ, Pauli P

Using the startle reflex methodology, researchers have shown that darkness, a phylogenetically relevant aversive context for humans, elicits fear responses. The present study replicated these findings in an ecologically valid situation, a virtual tunnel drive. Furthermore, the study focused on the question whether the darkness-enhanced startle response is modulated by an additional task involvement of the participants. Startle responses were assessed during virtual tunnel drives with darker and brighter sections. Participants once actively drove the virtual car and once passively sat in the car as a passenger. We found more negative feelings during darker parts of the virtual tunnel and during active driving. However, facilitated startle reactions in darkness were restricted to passive drives. Furthermore, correlation analyses revealed that darkness-enhanced startle modulation was more pronounced in participants with lower state anxiety. These results extend earlier findings in an experimental paradigm using ecologically valid virtual environments. Further research should use virtual reality paradigms to address context-dependent research questions.

Sep 16, 2007

Phone calling from Second Life

Via Textually.org 

C/net reports that BT is developing services that will enable users of virtual worlds to call or text out to their colleagues and friends in the real world. "To test the technology it has built a private island in Second Life, which it has dubbed Area 21 - a play on the ultra-secret Area 51 and BT's 21CN network technology, which is being used in the service"

Sep 13, 2007

Telepresence robot for interpersonal communication with the elderly

Developing a Telepresence Robot for Interpersonal Communication with the Elderly in a Home Environment.

Telemed J E Health. 2007 Aug;13(4):407-424

Authors: Tsai TC, Hsu YL, Ma AI, King T, Wu CH

"Telepresence" is an interesting field that includes virtual reality implementations with human-system interfaces, communication technologies, and robotics. This paper describes the development of a telepresence robot called Telepresence Robot for Interpersonal Communication (TRIC) for the purpose of interpersonal communication with the elderly in a home environment. The main aim behind TRIC's development is to allow elderly populations to remain in their home environments, while loved ones and caregivers are able to maintain a higher level of communication and monitoring than via traditional methods. TRIC aims to be a low-cost, lightweight robot, which can be easily implemented in the home environment. Under this goal, decisions on the design elements included are discussed. In particular, the implementation of key autonomous behaviors in TRIC to increase the user's capability of projection of self and operation of the telepresence robot, in addition to increasing the interactive capability of the participant as a dialogist are emphasized. The technical development and integration of the modules in TRIC, as well as human factors considerations are then described. Preliminary functional tests show that new users were able to effectively navigate TRIC and easily locate visual targets. Finally the future developments of TRIC, especially the possibility of using TRIC for home tele-health monitoring and tele-homecare visits are discussed.

Jul 08, 2007

Field dependency and the sense of object-presence in haptic virtual environments

Field dependency and the sense of object-presence in haptic virtual environments.

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2007 Apr;10(2):243-51

Authors: Hecht D, Reiner M

Virtual environment (VE) users often report having a sense of being present in the virtual place or a sense that the virtual object is present in their environment. This sense of presence depends on both the technological fidelity (e.g., in graphics, haptics) and the users' cognitive/ personality characteristics. This study examined the correlation between user's cognitive style on the field-dependency dimension and the level of object-presence they reported in a haptic VE. Results indicated that field-independent individuals reported higher presence ratings compared to field-dependent participants. We hypothesize that field-independents' advantage in reorganizing the perceptual field and constructing it according to their previously acquired internal knowledge enables them to cognitively reconstruct the VE experience more efficiently by selectively attending only to the relevant cues and by filling in the gap of missing information with their previous knowledge and creative imagination. This active and creative cognitive process may be behind the enhanced sense of presence. In addition, we raise a possible linkage between field dependency, the sense of presence, and simulator sickness phenomenon.

Jul 06, 2007

Disembodiment in Online Social Interaction

Disembodiment in Online Social Interaction: Impact of Online Chat on Social Support and Psychosocial Well-Being
Cyberpsychology & Behaviour, Jun 2007, Vol. 10, No. 3 : 475 -477

Seok Kang, Ph.D.
This study investigates how disembodiment—that is, transcendence of body constraints in cyberspace—in online chat affects social psychological well-being. The results demonstrate that disembodiment is a strong predictor of increased loneliness and depression, and decreased social support. However, the amount of chat use is a positive contributor to decreased offline estrangement and depression, and increased happiness. These contrasting results suggest that online chat use is a technology for social connection used for offline connectivity, but the disembodiment motive is associated with declines in social support and psychosocial well-being. The investigation of specified motives for online interaction, personal competency, or advanced technological alternatives in interaction is suggested for future research on the effects of online interaction on offline outcomes.

Jul 03, 2007


Via Pink Tentacle

A research team from the University of Tokyo has developed a rotating panoramic display that immerses viewers in a 3D video environment. The Telexistence Wide-angle Immersive STEReoscope, or TWISTER, is the world’s first full-color 360-degree 3D display that does not require viewers to wear special glasses, says professor Tachi, who has spent over 10 years researching and developing the device.



Jun 30, 2007

Are you Living in a Computer Simulation?

Via Networked Performance



Are you Living in a Computer Simulation? by Nick Bostrom, Department of Philosophy, Oxford University.


ABSTRACT: This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a "posthuman" stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed. 

"Why the Matrix? Why did the machines do it? (Human brains may be many things, but efficient batteries they are not.) How could they justify a world whose inhabitants are systematically deceived about their fundamental reality, ignorant about the reason why they exist, and subject to all the cruelty and suffering that we witness in the world around us?" From Why Make a Matrix? And Why You Might Be In One: by Nick Bostrom.

Also see: Simulism is a concept that deals with the possibility that we are living in a simulation.

Jun 24, 2007

DVE Tele-Immersion Room Debuts At Telepresence World

Via Vroot

News Pic

A new teleimmersive technology was launched at the Telepresence World Conference, being held in San Diego, US.

From the company website: 

The patented DVE Tele-Immersive Room is the world’s most realistic group-teleconferencing experience where the conferees appear in the 3D space of the room. After analysis of total needs of corporations for their high-end communications requirements, DVE created the DVE-Tele-Immersion RoomTM that provides:

  • True augmented reality conferencing
  • Eye level mounted camera behind the image
  • Full presentation environment
  • Fully immersive where the imaged people can be seen sitting and standing in the physical room
  • High end digital cinema
  • Stunning corporate marketing tool with recorded presentation for visiting clients
  • Volumetric 3D visualization of 3D objects up to 9 feet wide floating in air
  • Optional stereoscopic 3D visualization


Jun 07, 2007

Virtual Systems and Multimedia 2007: Call for Participation

Via Networked Performance


The 13th International Conference Virtual Systems and Multimedia 2007 :: September 23 - 26, 2007 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia :: Theme: Exchange and Experience in Space and Place :: Papers - Long and Short Papers: June 17, 2007 :: Notification July 15 - Camera-ready August 10 :: Posters due July 15, 2007 :: Notification August 10 - Camera-ready due September 15 :: Long Papers will be published by Springer in their LCNS. Others will be published locally.

Keynotes currently include: Dr Mark Billinghurst, Director, Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand, based at Canterbury University; Professor Mark Burry, Professor of Innovation (Spatial Information Architecture), at RMIT University; Dr Jonathan Fulcher, Head of Native Title Practice, Minter Ellison; Aden Ridgeway, Executive Chairman, Indigenous Tourism Australia (ITA); Ms Minja Yang, Director and UNESCO Representative to Bhutan, India, Maldives and Sri Lanka. The conference is endorsed by the Australian National Commission for UNESCO.

Bursaries for postgraduate students

Five student bursaries of USD$250 each will be offered. To be considered you must be a full-time postgraduate student and have a letter endorsing your full-time enrolment status from your supervisor and which also states that you do not hold an academic staff position. Full details are shown on the web site.

Brisbane information

Brisbane is an alive and bustling city of 1.6million people with all the requisite offerings of the nation's fastest growing capital and remarkable recreational experiences. Go to http://www.brisbanemarketing.com.au/aboutbrisbane/.

You will be just a short plane trip from Sydney with its stunning Harbour and world-famous Opera House, or you can visit the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park and Uluru in the Northern Territory. Attending VSMM 2007 and also visiting some of Australia's truly great places is highly recommended!

Theme - Exchange And Experience In Space And Place including:

- Virtual Heritage and Virtual Cultures for details see http://australia.vsmm.org/cfp-theme1.htm
- Virtual Environments and Virtual Experiences for details see http://australia.vsmm.org/cfp-theme2.htm
- Applied technologies and systems for details see http://australia.vsmm.org/cfp-theme3.htm

In addition to traditional conference paper and workshop proposals, VSMM07 encourages innovative submissions including movies, interactive or immersive designs and simulations, theatre, and installations. Non-academic submissions are very welcome.

Multimedia and Virtual Environment technologies are increasingly appearing in an array of applications that foster deeper understandings of the environments around us. In the spirit of international exchange, cooperation and development, the focus of VSMM in 2007 will be on the application of these technologies in `Bridging Space and Place through digital exchange and experience'.

Detailed conference themes include, but are not restricted to:

Virtual Heritage and Virtual Cultures:

Addressing the Digital Divide
Applied Cultural Theory
Applied Virtual Heritage
Cultural heritage legislation in a digital domain
Cultural Heritage Management
Cyber anthropology
Ethics of the design and use of VR
Experience Design
Finance and Legal
Funding for cultural heritage projects
Guidelines and International Charters
Heritage legislation, IP and digital rights management
Historical perspectives
Indigenous Knowledge & Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Knowledge and Virtual Environments
Legal issues, challenges and solutions
Narratives and Knowledge
Policy development and the role of technology
Professional Guidelines and Ethics
Social dimensions of Virtual Heritage
Space and place
Theoretical Virtual Heritage
Virtual Heritage and Museum Environments
Virtual property
Virtual Reality in Archaeology and Historical Research

Virtual Environments and Virtual Experiences:

Application of Serious Gaming technologies
Artificial life and dynamic worlds
Digital Arts and Politics
Digital performance
Digital storytelling
Engagement research
Generative VR
Human-Centred design issues
Immersion and emotion
Immersion research
Immersive Audio for presence and immersion
Media Arts & Creative Expression
Mobile Futures and devices and their application
Playfulness and experience design
Presence Research
Simulation and engagement
Spatial narratives
Virtual systems and real worlds
Visualisation and perception

Applied technologies and systems:

3D GIS: modelling and interpretation
3D scanner and remote sensing devices and their application
Augmented VR
Capture Technologies and Delivery Platforms
Convergent devices
Delivery and Distribution
Immersive Systems
Mobile Devices and their application
Modelling and rendering
On-site Delivery
Participatory 3D GIS
Projection Spaces
Standards and metadata
Stereoscopy and Panoramas

Important Dates:

Long and Short Papers: June 17, 2007
Notification: July 15, 2007
Camera-ready: August 10, 2007

Posters due - July 15, 2007
Notification - August 10, 2007
Camera-ready due - September 15, 2007

Long papers: 12 pages (approx 3000-4000 words)
Short papers: 5 pages (approx 1200-1800 words)
Posters: single A2 (or other format by negotiation)

Earlybird Registration: August 10, 2007

Five student bursaries of USD$250 each will be offered (see official website for details).

Contact us: Any queries, email aus_reviewers[at]vsmm.org or phone +61 7 3337 7821.

Note: VSMM07 SYDNEY WORKSHOP 21ST SEPTEMBER 2007 - In addition to the conference, VSMM invites all participants to attend a one day seminar on the 21st September 2007 in Sydney that focuses attention on new virtual heritage and electronic art research applied to the Advanced Visualisation Interactive Environment (AVIE), at the iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research, University of New South Wales http://australia.vsmm.org/sydworkshop/seminar.pdf.

Apr 24, 2007

Virtual Big Brother

Via TechNewsWorld 







Electronic Arts and Endemol have announced a partnership for launching Virtual Me, an avatar-based offering that will allow users to participate in virtual versions of several TV talent shows and game shows. Virtual Me users can also socialize and form relationships with other virtual avatars, much the way they currently do in Linden Lab's "Second Life."

read the full story on TechNewsWorld 

Apr 11, 2007

Summer school on Presence

Via Usability News

Event Date: 4 July 2007 to 6 July 2007
The First PEACH Summer School: 4-6th July 2007, Santorini Greece
"Towards Human Machine Confluence - Presence Technologies and Foundations"

Are you a PRESENCE researcher or PhD student? Are you looking to find out more about the latest presence research, methodologies and technologies? If so then the first PEACH Summer School is for you.

Registration deadline: 20th April 2007

PEACH is a FP6 Coordination Action on Presence. Its objective is to stimulate structure and support the Presence research community, with special attention to the challenges associated with the interdisciplinary character of the field, and to produce visions and roadmaps to support the construction of the Presence ERA. The Summer School is the ideal place to join the leaders in the field for a series of lectures and presentations. There are also working groups, which will focus on the latest technologies, applications and measurement techniques along with a poster session where you can present your work to other attendees and experts.

Prof David Benyon, Napier University
Dr Wijnand IJsselsteijn, Eidhoven University of Technology (Pasion IP-EU Project)
Dr Paul Verschure, University Pompeu Fabra (Presenccia)
Prof Mel Slater, University College London (Presenccia IP-EU Project, Immersence IP-EU Project)
Dr Christoph Gurger, Guger Technologies OEG BMI (Presenccia)
Dr Maria Victoria Sánchez Vives, Universidad Miguel Hernández-CSIC (Presenccia IP-EU Project)
Prof John Waterworth, Umea University
Dr Doron Friedman, University College London, (Presenccia IP-EU Project)
Dr Robert Bracewell, Universities of Birmingham and Wales, (Immersence IP-EU Project)
Dr Luciano Gamberini, University of Padua (Pasion)
Dr Wolfgang Broll, Fraunhofer (IP City-EU Project)
Dr Giullio Jacucci, Fraunhofer (IP City-EU Project)


From Networked Performance


MOBI (Mobile Operating Bi-directional Interface), by Graham Smith, is a human sized telepresence robot that users remotely control to move through distant environments, see through its camera eye, talk through its speakers and hear via its microphone ear. Simultaneously a life sized image of themselves is projected onto the robots LCD face, creating a robotic avatar. MOBI allows people to "explore far away art shows, attend distant presentations and make public appearences from anywhere on earth, thus helping to reduce air travel and reduce global warming". MOBI is at DEAF 07.

Graham Smith is a leading expert in the fields of telepresence, virtual reality, videoconferencing and robotics. He has worked with leading Canadian high tech companies for more than 14 years, including Nortel, Vivid Effects, VPL, BNR and IMAX. Graham initiated and headed the Virtual Reality Artist Access Program at the world-renowned McLuhan Program at the University of Toronto, and has lectured internationally. He holds numerous patents in the field of telepresence and panoramic imaging, and was recognized in Macleans magazine as one of the top 100 Canadians to watch

Feb 24, 2007

Performing Presence: From the Live to the Simulated

Uploaded Image


from the project website:


what creates a sense of presence? - the presence of a live performer ... the presence of the past ... in a memory ... in ruined remains ... the sense of 'being there' in an online community ... in a VR or mixed reality environment ...

The Presence Project is exploring such questions through a documentation of extended processes engaging with presence. Follow these links to explore our work with Lynn Hershman Leeson | Gary Hill | Tony Oursler | Blast Theory | The Builders Association | Paul Sermon

We are also fully documenting a series of performance workshops, led by Tim Etchells | Bella Merlin | Vayu Naidu | Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes | Fiona Templeton | Phillip Zarrilli

In 2007 and 2008 The Presence Project will be conducting two exercises at UCL's CAVE, the first of which is now in development.

Feb 19, 2007

Low-cost telepresence for collaborative virtual environments

Low-cost telepresence for collaborative virtual environments.

IEEE Trans Vis Comput Graph. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):156-66

Authors: Rhee SM, Ziegler R, Park J, Naef M, Gross M, Kim MH

We present a novel low-cost method for visual communication and telepresence in a CAVE -like environment, relying on 2D stereo-based video avatars. The system combines a selection of proven efficient algorithms and approximations in a unique way, resulting in a convincing stereoscopic real-time representation of a remote user acquired in a spatially immersive display. The system was designed to extend existing projection systems with acquisition capabilities requiring minimal hardware modifications and cost. The system uses infrared-based image segmentation to enable concurrent acquisition and projection in an immersive environment without a static background. The system consists of two color cameras and two additional b/w cameras used for segmentation in the near-IR spectrum. There is no need for special optics as the mask and color image are merged using image-warping based on a depth estimation. The resulting stereo image stream is compressed, streamed across a network, and displayed as a frame-sequential stereo texture on a billboard in the remote virtual environment.

Jan 10, 2007

Metaversal self

Via 3Dpoint.com 

BBC Newsnight’s Geek Week 2.0 examines the nature of the self in cyberspace. The 11-minute segment (click the virtual death link) provides a description of what it means to inhabit a metaversal presence.

Dec 03, 2006

Presence: a unique characteristic in educational virtual environments

Via VRoot

Presence: a unique characteristic in educational virtual environments

Virtual Reality Journal, Volume 10, Number 3-4 / December, 2006, Pages 197-206.

Author: Tassos A. Mikropoulos

This article investigates the effect of presence on learning outcomes in educational virtual environments (EVEs) in a sample of 60 pupils aged between 11 and 13 years. We study the effect of personal presence, social presence and participant’s involvement on certain learning outcomes. We also investigate if the combination of the participant’s representation model in the virtual environment (VE) with the way it is presented gives a higher sense of presence that contributes to learning outcomes. Our results show that the existence of an avatar as the pupils’ representation enhanced presence and helped them to successfully perform their learning tasks. The pupils had a high sense of presence for both cases of the EVE presentation, projection on a wall and through a head mounted display (HMD). Our socialized virtual environment seems to play an important role in learning outcomes. The pupils had a higher sense of presence and completed their learning tasks more easily and successfully in the case of their egocentric representation model using the HMD.

Plan for Telepresence Testbed Announced

National LambdaRail (NLR) announced today that it is developing a plan to implement a Telepresence testbed based on the Cisco Telepresence Meeting solution by mid-2007. With its nationwide optical backbone connected to nearly 20 regional optical networks, it will be simple for researchers to participate in the testbed from key research and education facilities throughout the nation. A call for participation will be issued early next year.

Read the full news release

Oct 14, 2006


From Pasta and Vinegar

VibeFones: Socially Aware Mobile Phones by Anmol Madan and Alex Pentland will be presented next friday in Montreux, Switzerland for the International Seminar of Wearable Computing.

In this paper, we describe mobile social software that uses tone of voice, location and proximity information to create a sophisticated understanding of people's social lives, by automatically mining their face-to-face and phone interactions. We describe several applications of our system - automatic characterization of social and workplace interactions, a courtesy reminder for phone conversations, and a personal trainer for dating encounters.