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Being Here; A Dissertation about how the design of our presence for each other determines possibilities for building trust or for breaking it down.

This website is work in progress. With Mediamatic Lab, we have been exploring an online translation of my dissertation which you can see on this site. Currently we are working on the next phase of the research focussing on Witnessed Presence. In this research knowledge of academia, art and professional experience is gathered and published in relation to each other. You can have a look at this work in progess.

When I just finished my dissertation in 2007 Mediamatic Lab offered to collaborate with me to create a dissertation web 2.0 of the work I had done. I was allowed to use Mediamatic's Anymeta, which would give me the opportunity to add metadata on any level I would like. As an experiment, and with the help of Rebekah Wilson, we loaded all paragraphs of my dissertation in a database after which the monk's work for me started. Since I was sailing at the Doris, this actually became a very pleasant experience.

I added metadata to every paragraph. In the many hours I spend on this an interesting realization happened. I found that the attribution of metadata actually became part of the authoring of the text. As author I realized that I attributed metadata in a more and more playful and conceptual manner for it to make sense. It was an amazing experience to notice, after considerable work was done, that the internal integrity of my writing started to emerge because the attribution of the metadata had become part of the integrity of the text. Being the author of both text and metadata is a very special experience. One is confronted with a deeper layer of writing and reading of one's own text, it is like thought structures become visible.

In 2007, while working with the Mediamatic Lab, we formulated the ambitions for this site as follows:
1. to show the integrity of the text as well as facilitating a more associative route of the reader through the text
2. to show the structure of the research and opening it up to new contributions at the same time
3. to use the capacity of Internet to be able to show sources and resources (be they text, sound or images) both in the presentation of the work as well as in the way new contributions are facilitated.

The first ambition, to facilitate a more associative reading through the text, has been fulfilled with a better result than we imagined would be possible. Because the metadata become part of the text, the transparency of the thinking and the structuring of the text open up. This is a very promising result when being involved with new ways of writing. Apparently a database with a conceptual use of metadata can inspire the reading as well as the writing of text in a variety of ways.

The second ambition to show the structure of the research and open it up to new contributions at the same time, was not that successful. Indeed the structure of the research is visible but this has not led to any comments or contributions made. The site attracts since august 2007 around 20 visitors a day, over a 100 people have registered on the site, over 200 times the entire text of the dissertation has been downloaded, nearly 500 copies of the book, in which the site is mentioned on every page, have been distributed. Apparently people do not comment and only very few have registered. Regularly I run into people who know the site and appreciate it. My conclusion is that this text is clearly a coherent body of work and therefore it does not feel like a place to leave comments, nor is there any need to do so when enjoying the work. So as of November 2008, we minimized the potential comment space under every paragraph to one possibility for comments on the homepage.

The third ambition did not happen at all. Because of time constraints and lack of funding, I did not scan the archives and only made very few links. It is very doable and will enrich the environment. However, because the experiment with the text was already so profound, there was no more time nor energy for this ambition.

Writing a dissertation has become a well-defined process in many universities around the world. May they differ in style, the overall agreement is that a dissertation has to offer a new contribution to the current status quo of science as it can be known at a certain moment in time. Dissertations are published within the academic and scientific communities in the first place and many do not travel beyond. Internet however, has changed the pace and scale at which scientific results can be distributed and can be challenged as well. Instead of being threatened by this developments, I suggest with the here presented work in progress, that it makes sense to try to understand how the development of scientific knowledge processes can be translated and opened up to the dynamics Internet technology can offer.

According to the research in the dissertation people will only get involved and start commenting and contributing, when political and social situations cause a need for such vital information. Even other researchers in the same field do not comment or register even though I know they have seen and appreciated the site. The text itself has greatly improvd though of this exercise. And because people find the being-here site, surf, they then download the entire dissertation. So I conclude that we did not create a dissretatin web 2.0, but definitely innovated the writing and editing of text.