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Ben Alderson-Day

This chapter discusses the feeling of another person’s presence, which is often experienced in extreme weather conditions. The author discusses how, in such spaces, presences may not exactly be commonplace, but they are not unexpected. Mountaineers and climbers make up one community in which stories of presence are well-known and often shared. These presences are usually known under a different name, though: ‘The Third Man’ – the archetypal presence, the providential companion, the silent traveller, aiding those adrift in times of need. It is likely that such experiences have been happening for centuries, materialising out of blizzards, hillsides and glaciers, only to dissolve once more. In cases of climbing, the occurrence of hallucinations is often attributed to the effects of altitude.

in Presence
Ben Alderson-Day

This chapter begins with the story of Leven Brown, who rowed from Cadiz to Tobago. The author talks to Leven to understand more about the link between endurance and presence. There is a dearth of accounts of experiences that sound like presence for extended pursuits done solo: ultrarunners, free divers, long distance swimmers and sailors, for example. But what drives that connection? Is it just isolation, leading us to conjure companions? Is it about people being pushed to the extremes of their limits, mentally and physically? Or is it something more individual than that, something unique to the people who have these experiences? Some of the encounters reported are similar to the classic ‘Third Man’ experiences discussed in chapter 2. They come about in adverse situations, but they occur more in continuity with everyday life. The author is left with some questions: is it stress or adversity that prompts these experiences, or do they tend to occur for a certain kind of person? Do you have to be someone extraordinary already to enter this realm? And if you do need to be a certain kind of person, how can the experience ever be separated from the individual?

in Presence
Abstract only
Ben Alderson-Day

This chapter describes how digital interaction differs from physical – the feeling of being there with someone, sharing a common space, is lost. To comprehend how and why digital interactions feel so different, the author aims to understand how presence works in the virtual world. There is a specific definition that is applied to presence when it comes to virtual reality (VR): the sense of ‘being there’ in a computer-based environment. The author concludes by describing how ideas, methods and findings are changing fast in this field, as is the level of conversation about this experience. To understand felt presence in psychosis, we are ultimately going to need to explore both of these paths: of the body and the mind. There is not just one presence – there are others.

in Presence