Witnessed presence is key in negotiating trust and truth

Both trust and truth are not given entities but processes of negotiation. Trust builds and breaks down, truth changes according to perspective. Also both processes are dependent on human perception and interaction for which reason they are subjected to complex dynamics in which psychological, sociological, theological, biological, political and economic realities play a role. Nevertheless according to the literature discussed in chapter 2, when discussing presence technologies key dimensions underlying these dynamics can be identified.

Being a witness traditionally meant that a human being was present at a specific time and a specific place. From a judicial perspective being an observer is not enough; to be a witness a human being consciously decides to take responsibility for the report on situation that is witnessed. As a result the report on this act of witnessing is supposed to contribute to the truth. This dynamic of being a witness and taking responsibility for being a witness, can be identified in many realms of society to create trusted and truthful interactions. In commercial contracts, when the stakes are high as in buying shares or a house for example, stakeholders have to be present in front of a notary to sign a contract specifying the date and precise time. In organizational agreements and civic procedures like marriage, the witness is a returning figure. Witnessing is formally orchestrated in these processes to guarantee truthful and trusted interactions and transactions. In informal social environments witnessing, or lying about having witnessed something as in gossip and rumours may happen, is a well known dynamic to create certain (mis) conceptions of other people or events. When discussing ethics of presence technologies, witnessed presence as a notion that plays a role in the negotiation of trust and truth, is useful.
The following three sections discuss four variables related to the concept of witnessed presence: space, time, relation and action.