Thoughts on Cisco, Telepresence, and Reciprocity

November 18, 2009

While meeting for drinks and food at Llywelyn’s Pub a few weeks ago on a Sunday evening with two of my oldest friends, one of them mentioned recently using Cisco’s Telepresence video conferencing. I was keen to learn about the experience. Rocky said the experience was really immersive and described in vivid detail the sense of sitting around an oval table with video feeding into displays that curve with the shape of the table to present participants at distant locations.

My first question was whether the configuration provided a reciprocity display to reflect back to each location how local participants are seen by others at different places. He said that it didn’t. I said it didn’t surprise me at all, given the name of the service — telepresence. It really is a pretentious name if you stop and think about it. After all, presence is roughly the sense one gets from being in an environment, and telepresence is the extent to which one feels present in a mediated environment, rather than in the immediate physical environment.

I consider myself an early adopter of communication tools that provide unique opportunities to engage other people. At the same time, I recognize the fact that face-to-face communication adds interpersonal depth, and not just bandwidth, to relationships that is either missing in asynchronous communication (whether user-generated or marketing -driven), or takes much longer to develop.

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