Self-Presence, Explicated: Body, Emotion, and Identity Extension into the Virtual Self

Self-Presence, Explicated: Body, Emotion, and Identity Extension into the Virtual Self

Rabindra Ratan (Michigan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2211-1.ch018
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Abstract

There is currently a need for a standardized concept that describes how relationships between the self and virtual self-representations operate across virtual contexts. The framework of self-presence fulfills this need by describing how people connect to their virtual self-representations on three distinct levels of self (body, emotion, identity). The present chapter draws from the fields of presence and neuroscience to explicate this conceptual framework and describe its operationalization, the Self-Presence Questionnaire. This explication and questionnaire were developed throughout a line of research that examined self-presence within numerous virtual contexts. The results from these studies suggest that the concept of self-presence is reliable and valid, and that future research could utilize the concept to develop a greater understanding of avatar use. This chapter concludes by suggesting such research applications of self-presence and then discussing the larger implications of this line of research.
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Presence As Precursor

The concept of self-presence is closely related in origin and meaning to the concept of presence. Thus, the present explication of self-presence begins in the field of presence. Because this field extends into many disciplines and discussions, only those works that provide direct foundations for the current formulation of self-presence are examined here.

Presence, as a concept within the field of Communication, grew out of the need to understand the effects of technologies and media that increasingly embody the user, namely robotics and virtual reality. Telepresence, a term adopted by Steuer (1992) from various previous uses to mean the experience of being there in a mediated environment, is introduced as an integral facet of virtual reality technology. He goes on to describe the technological dimensions that contribute to telepresence, including the vividness and interactivity of a medium. Biocca (1997) adopts the shorter term presence to mean the perception of being there in a physical, mediated, or imagined space. He describes how virtual reality technologies aim to induce the feeling of physical presence through sensory and motor engagement. Lombard & Ditton (1997) define the term presence as the “perceptual illusion of nonmediation”, thus restricting the use of the term only to media environments. They describe the causes of presence, most of which are characteristics of the medium or other social actors in the medium. Lee (2004) defines presence as a psychological state in which virtual objects, social actors, or virtual selves are experienced in sensory and non-sensory ways. He clarifies that virtual objects, social actors, or virtual selves can be either para-authentic, having real-world correlates, or artificial, without real-world correlates. While these four definitions differ significantly, they all imply that “presence occurs when mediated experiences are treated as nonmediated experiences in some way.”

Key Terms in this Chapter

Self-Presence: The extent to which some aspect of a person’s proto (body-schema) self, core (emotion-driven) self, and/or extended (identity-relevant) self is relevant during media use.

Extended Self-Presence: The extent to which some aspect of a self-representation is related to some aspect of personal identity

Avatar: A digital self-representation that reflects the user’s appearance and/or behavior to some extent.

Proto Self-Presence: The extent to which a mediated self-representation is integrated into body schema

Core Self-Presence: The extent to which mediated interactions between a self-representation and mediated objects cause emotional responses.

Presence: A perceptual phenomenon that occurs when mediated experiences are treated as nonmediated experiences in some way.

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