Technologies that evoke presence (short for telepresence) – a sense of “being there” in a virtual or media environment, or more generally, an “illusion of nonmediation” – are increasingly available to and popular with the public. And even though the term itself is rarely used, portrayals of presence have become common in popular culture – in films (e.g., The Matrix), on television (e.g., the various Star Trek series), in novels (e.g., William Gibson’s Neuromancer), and elsewhere.

We’re conducting a systematic analysis of these portrayals in which fictional characters experience one or more types of presence (see the website of ISPR, the International Society for Presence Research, for detailed definitions) to better understand:

  • the possible forms and contents of future presence-evoking technologies and experiences
  • the types of presence-evoking technologies, experiences and applications that people want
  • the types of presence-evoking technologies, experiences and applications that people fear
  • the reasons humans desire presence experiences
  • the different ethical issues and perspectives raised by advanced presence-evoking technologies
  • the degree to which fictional portrayals have accurately predicted the form and content of new technologies
  • What you can do (and why you might want to)

This is a fun but ambitious project that requires many hands – we really need and want your help.

When you encounter or remember a movie or TV show, novel, video game, comic book, or advertisement that includes a portrayal of presence, please visit this site and fill out the short web form to add a new portrayal to the project’s database. There’s also a list of portrayals that need to be added; if you’re familiar with any of these, or would like to see/read one or more of them, please add them to the database as well. If you teach a course (e.g., related to presence and/or research methods), please consider creating an assignment (e.g., for extra credit) in which students review the web site, read/watch a presence portrayal and enter the information into the database. As the database grows, we’ll examine the information about the portrayals for meaningful patterns, and eventually write a report of our findings. All contributors to the database will be acknowledged by name in all reports.

You can see which portrayals are in the database by searching for a portrayal or viewing all portrayals in the database. Entries can’t be changed or erased, but if you want to add or correct information in an entry you can just create a new entry for the same movie, TV show, etc.

If you have any questions (and/or would consider becoming a project member and co-author), please contact Matthew Lombard at

Project members:

Matthew Lombard – website
Melissa Selverian – email
Kun Xu – email
Hocheol Yang – email
Karl Horvath
Sung Bok Park
Ha Sung Hwang