Editor’s Introduction: The Origins and Mission of IJT
President, International Society for Presence Research
Department of Media Studies and Production; Doctoral Program in Media & Communication, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
International Journal of Telepresence, IJT, spatial presence, social presence, Computers Are Social Actors, Media Are Social Actors presence, Byron Reeves, Clifford Nass
Editor’s Introduction: The Origins and Mission of IJT
Welcome to the International Journal of Telepresence, or IJT, a new peer-reviewed journal for the presence community! It’s been a long birthing process for a variety of reasons including our hesitancy to take the plunge and make the commitment to what is a very time-consuming endeavor, and of course the pandemic that threw so many of our lives into turmoil.
But the pandemic and how it has affected so many aspects of our lives also reinforces the need for this journal. Our transitions to living and working via screens has accelerated the evolution of media technologies that allow for communication to approach being as natural and intuitive as they’d be in the ‘real’ (unmediated) world.
Let me explain why I believe we need IJT by quickly describing my experience with presence scholarship. I’ve already written (Lombard, 2018) about the origins of my interest in presence, but the short version is that intense interest in media since childhood led to the Communication doctoral program at Stanford, where Byron Reeves introduced me to the core idea of spatial and social presence applied to television viewing (“Jungle TV”), and Cliff Nass introduced me to the idea that Computers Are Social Actors (CASA), which Kun Xu and I recently expanded to Medium As Social Actor (MASA) presence (Lombard & Kun, 2021).
After serving for many years as president of the International Society for Presence Research (ISPR), which hosts annual and semi-annual PRESENCE conferences, and after nearly 25 years as managing editor of the ISPR Presence News service (and its predecessor, the PRESENCE-L e-list), I’m even more interested in presence and presence-related phenomena and how technologies are evolving to allow ever-more effective illusions that lead us to misperceive the technology’s existence or role in the experience. I understand presence – and the many distinct but related conceptualizations of it – as a fundamental trend in human history and an important lens to understand developments across time and disciplines. In every area of human endeavor there are compelling examples of presence phenomena and I’ve tried to highlight this diversity in selecting posts for ISPR-Presence News.
But the diversity and wide-ranging applications of presence means for the most part presence scholarship is spread out across the conferences and journals of many fields and often not even identified explicitly because authors aren’t familiar with the literature on, or even the term, presence (it doesn’t help that the term is a word commonly used in many other contexts). In Communication we have Media Psychology, Human-Machine Communication and the MIT Press journal Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, but the first two focus on a much broader set of unrelated phenomena and the third takes a more narrow approach in terms of method (quantitative), technologies (VR) and arguably definitions or types of presence (spatial/physical), and they all feature mostly full-length data-based research articles. These journals are all very valuable but in the traditional mold – including the use of text and a few static images, which seems ironic given the topic of presence.
What many of us have wanted and I believe have needed is a journal dedicated to presence with rigorous standards but with an inclusive focus that invites scholarship in any format, using any appropriate method, about any technology, and examining any type(s) of presence, while utilizing a variety of vivid, presence-evoking media in addition to text.
And so we’re officially launching the International Journal of Telepresence (IJT). As the mission statement for IJT outlines, the goal is to provide a forum for a wide variety of scholarship involving theory, research and thoughtful analysis related to (tele)presence. That includes many different forms and phenomena that are or relate to presence, including even those that don’t directly involve technology (i.e., presence *not* as an abbreviated term for telepresence). IJT is open access and free to both readers and authors. It’s easily accessible online directly at https://ijtelepresence.org/ or via the ISPR website (https://ispr.info).
IJT seeks submissions on a wide variety of topics related to presence in a wide variety of formats including but not limited to full research reports, extended literature reviews, commentaries, reviews, fiction and art. Multi-media presentation formats such as interactive charts, videos, and even virtual/augmented/mixed reality experiences that are more likely to evoke presence in IJT readers are strongly encouraged. The journal’s editorial board – a growing body that includes some of the original ISPR founders as well as many who are new to the field – is committed to a rigorous but constructive and collegial, open-minded and inclusive, timely blind peer review process.
While as with any start-up journal we can make no guarantees about its future, we hope and believe that by launching it and inviting the presence community and especially those outside the current community across campuses and non-academic institutions, we can lay the foundation for a rich and engaging exploration of many fascinating and important ideas. We hope you’ll join us, as both a consumer and a contributor!
Lombard, M. (2018). Presence Past and Future: Reflections on 25 Years of Presence Technology, Scholarship and Community. In Andrea L. Guzman (Ed). Human-Machine Communication: Rethinking Communication, Technology, and Ourselves. Peter Lang Publishing.
Lombard, M., & Xu, K. (2021). Social responses to media technologies in the 21st century: The media are social actors paradigm. Human-Machine Communication, 2, 29-55. https://doi.org/10.30658/hmc.2.2