This chapter is intended to be both theoretical and a little speculative. It draws upon psychological, neuro-dynamic and philosophical sources to create an account of what happens when we experience presence, that is, when we become aware that we are present. This chapter also offers an alternate treatment of the work of Riva and his colleagues with respect to their bio-cultural approach to presence.
Rather than appealing to evolution, biology or technology, this account starts like this: affect precedes cognition. We feel before we think. These feelings (or affective responses) are primarily evaluative and effectively prime our cognition for the world (real or digital) we find ourselves in. All of the apparatus of sense making, reasoning and so forth follow fairly quickly but they are not the first responders. Our affective response is very fast – much faster than our cognition.
In answering the question, how do we find the world, that is, just what is this affective response in response to, we must switch from psychology to philosophy.
Heidegger tells us that we encounter the world as available. Psychology and sense making follow this. We connect with this available world by what Merleau-Ponty calls an intentional arc or intentional threads which “anchor us” to it. This is not simply philosophical discourse as Freeman is able to explain the neuro-dynamics of this arc by invoking the operation of the limbic system – that is, those parts of the brain responsible for our emotional response to the world.
KeywordsAffect Response Cognition Intentional impressions Intentions Consciousness
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