Our paths diverge life takes us to the empty places past presences have been here but are lost I touch the brown crackled wallpaper feel past hands touching toes echoing forgotten footfalls 1. NOT BEING THERE Presence is a word pregnant with meaning in both CSCW and VR communities. Normally we are interested in feeling an awareness of people’s activities elsewhere. Sometimes we need to explicitly find out what people have been doing in order to understand the way shared workspaces have changed. Tower’s DocuDrama [Schäfer et al., 2001] is an example of this, but the concept of animating changes goes back far further [[**ref**]]. Research in Leeds Met has shown that even marginally ‘intelligent ’ avatars can give virtual visitors a sense of copresence in an infrequently habited virtual space. This lead to wondering whether various forms of replaying of human presence could give the same effect, perhaps lights moving on a gallery floor following the footsteps of past visitors. We call this sense of past presence ‘absent presence’. In September 2003, the several people in the Department of Computing at Lancaster University participated in Scrapheap (Computing) Challenge, an extreme prototyping event which challenged participants to design, prototype and present working computing artefacts as solutions to specific computing challenges [Scrapheap, 2003]. We refer to the activities during this event as “extreme ” because all comprehension, investigation, brainstorming, conceptualisation and realisation of prototypes had to be completed within a single working day. Alan Dix was one of the judges for the challenge and was tasked with producing a HCI challenge. He had already decide that ‘absent presence ’ was a suitable subject when he realized that he would be away at the annual HCI conference in Bath on the day. It this seemed not only appropriate but apposite. This paper describes the challenge, thee teams entries and the way this has already inspired further research and publications. In particular, one of the entries was the inspiration for a visualization system for web activity that creates 2D spaces based on web log analysis on which past or present visitations are played like footsteps. absenT Presenc
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