Presence Levels, Intimacy, IM, and Multiple Devices

I woke up this am and went jogging with Lara early! Ahhhh….

Last Saturday night, Michael Orourke came over and we had a nice conversation about the nature of presence and how this will transform and remain persistent across multiple devices. We are starting to see this as IM clients allow you to remain connected at all times through the same conduit but on multiple devices. How will this transfer as we begin to integrate with other devices, like TV? Our thoughts concluded with your phone acting as a remote into other devices, allowing you to transfer your presence to that device and then interact with that device. Different input devices will allow you to interact with those other devices. You may choose to use your pc and keyboard to interact with the presence on the TV… or perhaps your phone, if you have to go out the garage, but want to continue the conversation.

I then read this article that Howard Reingold wrote of an interview with Scott Jenson.

WAP and MMS failed to meet expectations because services were designed by what Jenson calls “default thinking,” a clichéd and unquestioned mindset that combines “a weak collection of axioms of design, broad market visions, or rules of execution that aren’t clearly articulated. This collection exists in the background, much like the assumption that gravity exists.”

The companies who assumed that the coolness of sending photos would automatically make MMS an even bigger hit than the accidental success of SMS were victims of default thinking: “While indeed, there appears to be an intuitive value to ‘sending a photo,’ additional questions such as ‘Do people really need this?’ and ‘What are they doing in their lives where this is a large value?’ need to be asked.”

Jenson uses the notions of “design semantics” (the broader motivational issues underlying an act of communication) and “design syntax” (the way the screens and menus look when someone tries to communicate) to illustrate the important differences between SMS and MMS.

He goes on to outline four different killer apps of MMS and SMS that have yet to be implemented.

The first centers around gift giving. This reminds me of the work done at HP, by Mirjana Spasojevic. This paper, talks about, the Social Uses of the Camera Phone, and I was reminded of one example she uses as an example of such gift-giving with these devices. One of her subjects received a bunch of flowers. “She waited until the flowers bloomed and then thanked the giver by capturing and printing an
image of them, and sent the print in a letter with a written “thank you” note.” Although a bit different mechanism for gift giving, the intention and user motivation is the same that Scott Jenson is talking about here.

The other killer apps that Jenson outlines are centered more around presence.

The product Jenson calls “Tap” would require custom software on the handset to send and receive SMS messages that convey only the time and the identity of the sender. “Although no text is sent, the message isn’t really empty of content as it has a sender and an arrival time, both of which can have meaning depending on social context. This text-free message can be thought of as the social equivalent of a tap on the shoulder” that could convey different messages, depending on context.

This is the same notion that Mimi Ito refers to as “Remote Touching” which enables a sense of presence to be conveyed. It’s not the same level of presence that IM transferring your availability messages via platforms would afford, but it is a more intimate type of presence. One that conveys your intention and thoughts, not only your availability. Perhaps it even borders on the notion of a gift.

I think this brings up interesting thoughts on levels of presence. As we allow our lives to become integrated more and more into the virtual, I think we will start to see different applications which will afford us the ability to 1. make apparent some of our real-world actions through the interaction with different devices 2. allow different small notions of intimacy to be transferred easily through different mediums. The more intimate touches, will be used with a closed social network, while the others maybe broader in their appeal.

The other apps that Scott Jenson finishes up talking about reinforce this notion. One is allowing voice as the gift instead of just text and the end is a group texting service which aggregates and sends messages in groups instead of just an inbox. I’m sure the level of intimacy within these groups will also be defined. I think giving users tools to do this will be an inherent part of conveying presence.

I want my coworkers to know where I can be contacted easiest at all parts of the day, but I want my friend to know that I was just had a random thought that reminded me of him. Would a model of presence intimacy, like this get us closer to the modeling of strong and weak ties… where weaker ties are allowed less presence levels and stronger ties are allowed more?


3 thoughts on “Presence Levels, Intimacy, IM, and Multiple Devices

  1. DB

    Hi Anita,

    This “Tap” that Scott Jenson is talking about… isn’t that basically like giving someone a really short phone call, and hangin up as soon as it rings?

    They get to see your name, and the time you called, and could possibly understand the reason for your call if you pre-arranged it… eg: The buzzer for my apartment doesn’t work, so my friends just give me a short ring to let me know they’ve arrived, and I let them in.

    How could doing this through a system similar to SMS, but with an extra service on my phone, actually provide value?

  2. anitamobile

    Hey boothy.

    That is a great question and insight. So the way I see it, [and this may be rather short answer because i don’t have a lot of time right now], is that I could see some sort of graphic interface allowing you to convey emotions or levels of intimacy with someone. For example maybe your phone buzzes, plays a little song when your friend is there at the door. But maybe a cheezy animated heart [or preferably some uncheezy icon] flashes and the buzzes are longer and more intense in duration, when your friend wants to give you a hug. Or maybe there is one that is just short buzz with some sort of light graphic, when someone just wants to tell you they are saying hi. These messages [taps] could be sent just at one click. So, i think what Scott is getting at is how to alert your friends that you are there without having to type a message or use words. I think this would be different from a phone call because you could easiy add additional emotion or enhancements on top of a basic tap and that could convey levels of intimacy and emotion. Right now, if someone just called and hung up, and you didn’t know they were supposed to arrive, perhaps you would just think they were pranking you.

    As I said, I this is a rather quick response, so please feel free to continue this line of conversation… it’s a great topic that I really enjoy thinking about!



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