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Telepresence as a Driver for Presence

Last year, I gave a talk at a major design expo on the future of presence. I argued that we need to be keenly aware of the historical relationship between new communications technologies and long-distance travel. Right now, the coincidence of high-definition, immersive videoconferencing and high fuel prices has many people excited about the potential for substituting telepresence for travel.

The impact of the Hajj on social attitudes

In David Lodge's great novel Changing Places, Euphoric State University professor Morris Zapp declared that "travel narrows." He was a world-renowned Jane Austen scholar, he said, precisely because he had never been to England: his lack of interest in the real England let him focus more sharply on the novels, and made him a better critic.

This attitude may hold true for literature (or not), but Slate reports on a fascinating recent study (available here) suggesting that Muslims who make the pilgrimage to Mecca "came back with more moderate views on a range of issues, both religious and nonreligious, suggesting that the Hajj may be helpful in curbing the spread of extremism in the Islamic world."

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