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Engage More Senses to Build Deeper Connections Virtually

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

As many of our interactions move to the virtual world, it's easy to feel like something is missing. We have to work harder to create the same level of connection in virtual interactions that we enjoy in-person. Embodied Social Copresence (ESC) is a term commonly used by computer scientists to explain how engaged participants are with each other in virtual worlds. This concept explains what "being together" means and can guide us to creating more engaging virtual experiences at work.


To break it down to it's elements - embodied is the engagement our five senses, social is the synchronization of the experience among the participants and copresence is the feeling of being together. ESC makes us feel like we sharing an experience and by creating virtual interactions with high ESC, you are building trust and fostering connection in the same way real shared experiences do.


So how do you create a high-ESC interaction? According to the research, it's by engaging as many senses as possible.


When we share an experience in real life, we are also sharing the same sensory stimulus - sights, smells, sounds, touch, and tastes. To the extent you're able to able to engage those senses in a virtual interaction, you're able to create Embodied Social Copresence. This makes interactions more engaging, which results in building relationships and trust.


At Hello Mailbox, we offer Let's Grab Coffee, a virtual coffee experience that engages all the senses to help take your virtual meetings to the next level. For example, when you send coffee to a prospect you're engaging taste, smell, and touch with the coffee itself. Combine this with the video call and you're engaging sight and sound as well. Furthermore, the coffee/tea treat is sent with a personalized handwritten note and fully branded packaging, making it an excellent opportunity to build relationships with both you and your brand.

Explore the research on Embodied Social Copresence:

Creangă, Raluca. “A Dive into Copresence and Presence Literature” 10, no. 2 (2019): 12. Diwanji, Vaibhav, Abigail Reed, Arienne Ferchaud, Jonmichael Seibert, Victoria Weinbrecht, and Nicholas Sellers. “Don’t Just Watch, Join in: Exploring Information Behavior and Copresence on Twitch.” ​Computers in Human Behavior​ 105 (April 2020): 106221.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.106221​.

Dunbar, R. I. M. “Breaking Bread: The Functions of Social Eating.” ​Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology​ 3, no. 3 (September 2017): 198–211. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-017-0061-4​.

Jänkälä, Annukka, Asko Lehmuskallio, and Tapio Takala. “Photo Use While Dating: From Forecasted Photos in Tinder to Creating Copresence Using Other Media.” ​Human Technology​ 15, no. 2 (June 14, 2019): 202–25. https://doi.org/10.17011/ht/urn.201906123156​.

Kang, Sin-Hwa, James H. Watt, and Sasi Kanth Ala. “Social Copresence in Anonymous Social Interactions Using a Mobile Video Telephone.” In ​Proceeding of the Twenty-Sixth Annual CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - CHI ’08,​ 1535. Florence, Italy: ACM Press, 2008.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1145/1357054.1357295​.

Kim, Jung, Hyun Kim, Boon K. Tay, Manivannan Muniyandi, Mandayam A. Srinivasan, Joel Jordan, Jesper Mortensen, Manuel Oliveira, and Mel Slater. “Transatlantic Touch: A Study of Haptic Collaboration over Long Distance.” ​Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments​ 13, no. 3 (June 2004): 328–37. https://doi.org/10.1162/1054746041422370​.

LaBrie, Joseph W., Jennifer L. de Rutte, Sarah C. Boyle, Cara N. Tan, and Andrew M. Earle. “Leveraging Copresence to Increase the Effectiveness of Gamified Personalized Normative Feedback.” ​Addictive Behaviors​ 99 (December 2019): 106085. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106085​.

Liberati, Nicola. “Making out with the World and Valuing Relationships with Humans: Mediation Theory and the Introduction of Teledildonics.” ​Paladyn, Journal of Behavioral Robotics​ 11, no. 1 (April 30, 2020): 140–46. https://doi.org/10.1515/pjbr-2020-0010​.

———. “Teledildonics and New Ways of ‘Being in Touch’: A Phenomenological Analysis of the Use of Haptic Devices for Intimate Relations.” ​Science and Engineering Ethics 23, no. 3 (June 2017): 801–23.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9827-5​.


Lutz, Sarah, Frank M. Schneider, and Peter Vorderer. “On the Downside of Mobile Communication: An Experimental Study about the Influence of Setting-Inconsistent Pressure on Employees’ Emotional Well-Being.” ​Computers in Human Behavior​ 105 (April 2020): 106216.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.106216​.

Marino, Sara. “Cook It, Eat It, Skype It: Mobile Media Use in Re-Staging Intimate Culinary Practices among Transnational Families.” ​International Journal of Cultural Studies​ 22, no. 6 (November 2019): 788–803.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877919850829​.

———. “Digital Food and Foodways: How Online Food Practices and Narratives Shape the Italian Diaspora in London.” ​Journal of Material Culture​ 23, no. 3 (September 2018): 263–79.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183517725091​.

Nam, Chang S., Joseph Shu, and Donghun Chung. “The Roles of Sensory Modalities in Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVEs).” ​Computers in Human Behavior​ 24, no. 4 (July 2008): 1404–17.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2007.07.014​.

Siragusa, Laura, Clinton N. Westman, and Sarah C. Moritz. “Shared Breath: Human and Nonhuman Copresence through Ritualized Words and Beyond.” ​Current Anthropology 61, no. 4 (August 1, 2020): 471–94.​ ​https://doi.org/10.1086/710139​.

Wohn, Donghee Yvette. “From Faux-Social to Pro-Social: The Mediating Role of Copresence in Developing Expectations of Social Support in a Game.” ​Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments​ 25, no. 1 (July 1, 2016): 61–74. https://doi.org/10.1162/PRES_a_00246​.

Zappavigna, Michele. “Digital Intimacy and Ambient Embodied Copresence in YouTube Videos: Construing Visual and Aural Perspective in ASMR Role Play Videos.” ​Visual Communication,​ July 2, 2020, 147035722092810. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357220928102​.

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