Absence to presence: a vision of the communicating human in computer-mediated communications technology research
In 1904, Edouard Estaunie coined the term telecommunication by merging the Latin word communico, to impart or share, with the Greek word tele, for distance. He had in mind a word for any technology that used electronic signals to exchange information. We still use the term in pretty much the same way one hundred years later, though in a more encompassing fashion: the historian of telecommunication, A. A. Huurdeman (2003), for example, uses it as a label for any ‘technology of information transport’ – one assumes that papermail would fit into this category, as well as motorcycle couriers. Somehow, though, we don’t think of telecommunication as quite the word for our communications obsessed times. One might say that the word computer and more especially the words the internet do instead; these words have become rough and ready synonyms for the all too human desire to be in touch. What I am thinking of here is not the evolution of words but simply the use of everyday phrases like “Are you on the internet?” and, “I am so much better at keeping in touch with a PC”. What these phrases convey is that some ‘thing’, a PC, a mobile, ‘the internet’ and so on – whatever it might be – is like an umbilical cord linking each and every one of us in principle; an umbilical cord between ourselves and our friends, ourselves and the world at large.
In this paper I am...
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