YUTPA framework

The specific configuration of time, space, action and relation in a certain product or process, in which natural presence, mediated presence and witnessed presence all play a role, enables certain forms of trust and truth to be established while excluding others. Because of the development of mechanical, electrical, electronic and digital technologies, people can act with other people over time and distances in other ways than those that are dictated by physical presence. It is in the specific ‘time and space configuration in which one meets with others in action’ that one set of possibilities and liabilities can be distinguished from another. Such a configuration is called a YUTPA configuration.

YUTPA is an acronym for “being with You in Unity of Time, Place and Action”. Time, place, action and relation are dimensions that can have different values between You and not–You, Now and not–Now, Here and not–Here, Do and not–Do as depicted in Figure 1.
The You/not-You dimension refers to the relationship with the other human being(s) with whom one interacts.
The Now/not-Now dimension refers to the sharing of the experience of time, synchronous or asynchronous in past or future.
The Here/not-Here dimension encompasses the sharing of place or not. Depending on how place is defined or experienced this can be geographically small or large, it can also refer to the sense of distance in virtual and online worlds.
The Do/not-Do dimension refers to the possibility to act as part of or as a result of a social interaction.
The word Unity refers to the specific configuration between these four dimensions that is designed in a certain product or process, which makes certain interactions possible while it excludes others. It is a formulation from the perspective of the actor, from the perspective of the person involved. In specific configurations human beings enact their being, witness each other, tune and perform their presences.
In every specific YUTPA configuration different possibilities to delegate trust and to produce and verify particular facts is given. Internet, mobile communication, GIS, and databases have created new YUTPA configurations of communication.
The position this paper takes is that values for ‘presence-ethics’ need to be developed in the relation to the natural presence of the people involved. All contributions, possible destruction, confusion and transformations of other YUTPA configurations have to be valued and judged from the perspective of the natural presence of human beings, and the environment they need, to be well and survive (Nevejan 2007). In this respect it is interesting to notice that most current information and communication technology agenda’s for innovation of truthful and trustworthy environments can be located in the black space of figure 1 in which there is no possibility to act for human beings to be involved. While most human beings love, have children, enjoy life and find trust and truth in the white ‘action’ space of the same figure 1.

Figure 1: The 4 dimensions of time, place, relation and action define how the relation between witnessed presence and the negotiation of trust and truth can be understood. Next to the three axes, the dimension of Action is represented by the black and white parts of the sphere illustrating the possibility to act in the white of ‘clear air’ or the lack of possibilities to act in the black of ‘no oxygen space’. (Graph: Max Bruinsma)

The four action spaces defined by You create a solid ground for social interaction because these interactions are understood in the context of the relation with the other human being. Establishing distrust is as trustworthy in this respect as establishing trust. Feedback from synchronous and asynchronous mediated presences (You/not–Now/not–Here, You/Now/not–Here) may contribute to the building or diminishing of trust provided the context of a relationship supports this process. With strangers especially synchronous communication, as is facilitated by the telephone for example, is perceived as truthful and generates trust.
The four action spaces defined by not–You are more complex and highly dependent upon the delegation of trust. Trust in social structures and trust in technology are required to be able to operate in those spaces, trust between individuals is not the issue here. When sharing time and place, while not knowing other people who are present as in a busy street for example, people treat each other as information. But in such a busy street one can still be a witness and decide to act. In all other three not–You spaces technology is needed for human beings to be present; a presence that manifests itself mostly as data-identity, formatted by technology, which is often outside of the ‘original’ human beings control. In the not–You communication spaces basic trust is delegated to governments and companies to create and maintain systems in trustworthy and truthful manners yet these are not always capable or willing to do so.
The blurring between You and not–You creates confusion as well as solutions. In not–You spaces trust is delegated, moral distance is easily taken, responsibility is harder to sense but the ‘neutrality’ of technology generates a great sense of truth and trustworthiness. Therefore in communication processes, which consist of series of interactions and transactions as well, the orchestration of links between on- and offline moments is crucial for success. Part of the trustworthiness of online banking for example is the fact that there is also a bank in a building, with people with whom one can communicate. Part of the trustworthiness of online banking is also the fact that the ‘real’ bank is subjected to the rule of law.
Between the experience of a human being and the social structures to which trust and truth finding are delegated, specific products or services are accepted or not. By interchanging between mediated and natural, between witnessed and not, between synchronous and asynchronous, between not–You and You spaces, between Here and not–Here, and by offering the possibility to act, communication processes take shape and trust and truth are build up or broken down.