In this paper I explore the changing nature of connections 'at a distance'. I argue that some characteristic ways of formulating these changes are unhelpful. The social sciences have developed weak analyses of the more distant yet intermittent connections that hold social life together. It is shown that intermittent bodily copresence resulting from travel and occasioned encounters is critically significant for social life. The importance of such copresence is characteristic even of virtual communities and of far-flung diasporic communities. But it is also shown that new 'inhabiting machines' are emerging, machines that undermine the distinction between 'transportation' and 'communications'. These new machinic hybrids are reconfiguring relations at a distance and constitute something of an epochal shift. Although there have always been complex connections of presence and absence, the current century seems to be ushering in some exceptional changes in those recurrent patterns of presence and absence, through our dwelling within an increasingly populous world of inhabiting machines.