This article claims that the meaning of presence is closely linked to the concept we have of reality, i.e., to the ontology that we more or less explicitly adopt. Different ontological stances support different criteria for presence, telepresence, and virtual presence. We propose a cultural conception of presence that challenges the current idea that experiencing a real or simulated environment deals essentially with perceiving its “objective” physical features. We reject commonsense ingenuous realism and its dualism opposing external reality and internal ideas. In our perspective, presence in an environment, real or simulated, means that individuals can perceive themselves, objects, and other people not only as situated in an external space but also as immersed in a sociocultural web connecting objects, people, and their interactions. This cultural web—structured by artifacts both physical (e.g., the physical components of the computer networks) and ideal (e.g., the social norms that shape the organizational use of the computer networks)—makes possible communication and cooperation among different social actors by granting them a common reference grid. Environments, real and virtual, are not private recesses but public places for meaningful social interaction mediated by artifacts. Experiencing presence in a social environment such as a shared virtual office requires more than the reproduction of the physical features of external reality; it requires awareness of the cultural web that makes meaningful—and therefore visible—both people and objects populating the environment.

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