the presence project

For my Master’s Project at Stanford, I helped lead a cross-disciplinary team on a deep dive into our love-hate relationship with technology. It is true that we LOVE our glowing screens and instantaneous connections to anyone, anywhere. At the same time, there is a growing sense of helplessness and loss of control as our devices infiltrate every aspect of our lives. How do we find a balance? How can we optimize time spent in our virtual lives in order to be fully engaged in our real lives?

Seeking answers to these questions, we dove in, interviewing techies, parents, businesspeople and even a Buddhist Master about their relationships with technology and its effects on presence, productivity and happiness. The stories we heard were illuminating, and sometimes scary (for example, pre-teens using words like “addicted” to describe their relationship to the computer).

What we realized was that the family is a perfect leverage point in this system: Parents have the opportunity to help their kids establish good habits in the home and learn to control their screen time.

Home is also where parents expressed wishing to be able to be more present and unplug in order to fully enjoy their partner and children. Often, the conversations sparked by our questions and prototypes led to open and honest dialog, where kids would even critique their parents’ habits.

In order to capitalize on this opportunity and carry on the momentum of these initial conversations, my partner Emily and I built the Presence Toolkit, a literal toolbox of ideas, provocations and products to helps families come down from the cloud and re-connect with each other.

Project Team
Brett Westervelt
Ale Palandjoglu
Emily Goligoski
Julian Jordan
Jon Leland
Shannon Randolph