2022–23 CAST Mellon Faculty Grant

TeleAbsence. Image courtesy of Hiroshi Ishii.
TeleAbsence. Image courtesy of Hiroshi Ishii.
TeleAbsence. Image courtesy of Hiroshi Ishii.
TeleAbsence. Image courtesy of Hiroshi Ishii.

Addressing the vast emotional distance caused by the loss of a loved one

“People die twice.
First, when they die.
Then when they are forgotten.”

– Rokusuke Ei (1933–2016)


Presence and absence are fundamental states of being for mortal humans; being present or close, and being absent, far away, or lost. Building upon the Tangible Media Group’s TelePresence projects, TeleAbsence aims to create illusory communication channels with those no longer with us to soothe the pain of bereavement. The project is designed around objects, including old typewriters, telephones, bottles, brushes, and pianos that were once touched and marked by the hand of a loved one. 

Through these tangible artifacts and abstract ambient media, TeleAbsence offers a sense of “ghostly telepresence” of lost loved ones. The project aims to address the issue of the vast, emotional distance caused by bereavement and the inability to receive a response from a loved one—the “presence of absence.”

TeleAbsence was featured as a topic of study and a basis for student projects in spring 2023 Berklee College of Music course EP-390, Sound Design for Installations, taught by Akito van Troyer, MIT Media Lab alum (PhD ’18) who helped develop the hardware and software for ambientPhoneBooth, a TeleAbsence project.

More information at MIT Media Lab



TeleAbsence Demo at MIT Media Lab Spring Meeting
April 3 & 4, 2023
MIT Media Lab

Presented at Body x Materials: A Workshop Exploring the Role of Material-Enabled Body-Based Multisensory Experiences
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Hamburg, Germany
April 28, 2023

TeleAbsence: Communication with those no longer among us through Tangible Memories
Lecture/Presentation at Ars Electronica 2021
Festival for Art, Technology & Society
Ars Electronica Garden Cambridge
September 8-12, 2021


Hiroshi Ishii, Concept Lead

Paula Aguilera, Media Producer

Kyung Yun Choi, GhostTypeWriter

Mengying “Cathy” Fang, Calligraphy

Özgün Kılıç Afsar, Singing Body

Rébecca Kleinberger, Voice

JB Labrune, Concept Development

Elise O’Hara, Administrative Coordinator

D. Pillis, Installation Artist, Interaction Designer

Akito van Troyer, Software & Hardware Developer

Jonathan Williams, Media Technology

Xiao Xiao, MirrorFugue Designer