Presence and Flow: A Heuristic Framework to Inform Theory and Design


Linda Greenwood

Mass Media & Communication Program

School of Communications and Theater

Temple University

Philadelphia, PA USA



Research on presence could have important implications for both educational and therapeutic applications. Presence is a concept that has become more salient with the development of virtual reality (VR) technology and with the use of this technology for both educational and therapeutic applications. Although some of these VR applications have been found to be effective tools for treatment of phobias and for educational and training purposes, there is a dearth of understanding as to why this is so. Research that focuses on interactivity in and emotional responses to presence-inducing environments is needed to better inform both theory and practice. Researchers should consider extending the presence construct to include other, related constructs in order to develop a thorough understanding of how VR experiences contribute to positive experiential outcomes. Following this prescription, this paper will examine presence in the context of a flow experience, which has been described in the literature as one of complete psychological and affective immersion—the "optimal experience" Although both presence and flow can be experienced in non-mediated environments, the focus of this paper will be on these psychological phenomena as experienced in computer-mediated environments.