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Jan 23, 2006

Telepresence as flow

Via the Presence L-Listserve

This newspaper article from ContractorUK reports on results of a study by Steve Pace, who has found a link between flow state and the sense of "being there" that gamers experience when immersed in a virtual world.

The study is very interesting, though the idea that flow and presence share a common ground is not new. For example Draper and coll. (1996) have speculated that presence could be a specific kind of flow experience occurring during teleoperations. Jacobson (2002) has argued that when a virtual world is viewed as a locus of activity, flow explains presence. I have expressed a similar idea in this book chapter.


Draper, J. V., & Blair, L. M. (1996). Workload, flow, and telepresence during teleoperation. Paper presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Minneapolis, MN.


Gamers 'flow' into the zone

Square-eyed computer gamers occupy the same mental ‘zone’ as athletes preparing to run a race, new research reveals. Regardless of format, gamers lose track of time and temporarily forget about their physical surroundings and usual concerns, such as eating and going to the toilet. In this state – technically known as ‘flow,’ they occupy the same mental zone as athletes or others whose, “attention is intently focused on an activity that is challenging yet enjoyable.” Such is the verdict of Dr Steve Pace of the Central Queensland University, who has been awarded a $10,000 grant to probe into the minds of computer game players. His seminal study has uncovered not just ‘flow,’ but also that gamers experience a sense of ‘telepresence’ - serving to cocoon PC or console enthusiasts in a virtual world. According to the study, telepresence is the technical term for when players feel present in an environment by means of a communication medium. The environment may be a real place such as a distant space viewed through a video camera, or an artificial place such as an animated world as in World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Users often experience a combination of flow and telepresence when playing computer games that involve simulated 3D environments. “I think flow holds the key to telling us what makes engaging experiences on the computer,” Dr Pace said, speaking to Australia’s The Age. “If you try talking to someone experiencing flow while playing on a computer game, you'll just get a grunt," he said. The main beneficiaries of Dr Pace’s research will be multi- media software developers who will gain fresh guidelines on how to maximise opportunities for experiencing flow and telepresence in 3D games, learning tools and websites. Other software developers are expected to benefit from unprecedented insights into design factors that influence a computer user’s state of mind and behaviour toward new technologies. Reflecting on the study, academics pointed out advances in multi media development often have significant flow-on effects for the wider software industry, particularly in education and health sectors. Meanwhile, the eminent psychologist Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has explored ‘flow’ in artists, musicians, and people immediately after they have read a novel or watched a film. His research found around 15 per cent of people never experience flow – but concluded that the feeling is unconnected with intelligence. However, optimal flow is reached the more skills are gained; meaning the subject typically ‘knows what needs doing, and how well it is going’ with a timeless sense of serenity, neither anxious nor bored.

Dec 19, 2005

The self in action: Lessons from delusions of control

Conscious Cogn. 2005 Dec;14(4):752-70
Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, UK.

Patients with delusions of control are abnormally aware of the sensory consequences of their actions and have difficulty with on-line corrections of movement. As a result they do not feel in control of their movements. At the same time they are strongly aware of the action being intentional. This leads them to believe that their actions are being controlled by an external agent. In contrast, the normal mark of the self in action is that we have very little experience of it. Most of the time we are not aware of the sensory consequences of our actions or of the various subtle corrections that we make during the course of goal-directed actions. We know that we are agents and that we are successfully causing the world to change. But as actors we move through the world like shadows glimpsed only occasional from the corner of an eye.