I found Rhema’s comment on yesterday’s post very insightful. It seems quite plausible that it is the virtuous loop of instant high bandwidth feedback when meeting somebody in person that allows our brains to function at higher capacity, as we feel each other out in real time.
Which suggests a more refined version of my original question: Could we systematically add and subtract various aspects of “being there” to figure out which elements of meeting in person are the most important?
For example, perhaps we can separate people by a pane of glass, or have them interact through video of varying latency or resolution, or with varying sound fidelity, or with/without stereo depth, etc.
At some point we might discover a decisive dimension which holds the key, more than other dimensions, to the sense of “being there” when meeting somebody.
Of course, we still need to come up with an objective criterion: What question shall we ask, to understand how much our two participants were fully “present” in their mutual encounter?
I am open to suggestions!