Rethinking telepresence: post- and pre-COVID-19

Jérôme Bourdon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Following the marked increase in the use of digital technologies during the recent pandemic, the article reconsiders the concept of social telepresence, in the sense of interpersonal connection at a distance, locating it in the longue durée and within media studies. It reminds the reader that, for centuries, when people were separated from one another by the force of various circumstances, including pandemics, they resorted to technologies at their disposal to experience telepresence, long before the term itself was coined by scholars. Foremost among these has been the epistolary, a vitally important interpersonal media largely overlooked by media and telepresence researchers. Rather than competitively evaluating the performance of various technologies, the article proposes a framework to compare them, along with the practices of social telepresence, in the course of history. This comparative program employs the following criteria: embodiment, synchronicity, the space of the encounter, the ontology of entities other than humans actuated by telepresence and the social preferences for different forms of telepresence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)884-895
Number of pages12
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2023


  • epistolary
  • liveness
  • media equation
  • media history
  • parasocial interaction
  • presence at a distance
  • suspension of disbelief


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