MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Ambient co‐presence: transnational family practices in polymedia environments

Global Networks

Published online on


In this article, I develop an argument about a new type of mediated co‐presence termed ‘ambient co‐presence’, which is the peripheral, yet intense awareness of distant others made possible through the affordances of ubiquitous media environments. Drawing on a long‐term ethnography of UK‐based Filipino migrants and their communication practices with their transnational families, I observe the increasing prevalence of an ‘always on’ culture of ubiquitous connectivity. The functions of a social networking site (SNS) such as the ‘news feed’, combined with the portability of internet‐enabled devices and locative services, mean that users can be peripherally, yet constantly aware of the actions and daily rhythms of their peers. This peripheral awareness, which can be pervasive, complements other types of mediated co‐presence and has powerful emotional consequences – both positive and negative – for relationships at a distance. Participants with weak relationships reported an increase in conflict especially through opportunities for surveillance. By contrast, those who enjoyed strong relationships associated ambient co‐presence with low‐level emotional reassurance. In this article, I also observe that ambient co‐presence has implications for community and belonging. Notwithstanding the development of online norms that are culturally specific, I argue that the concept of ambient co‐presence can have cross‐cultural relevance for understanding the consequences of mediated communication.