The three elements of time design encountered in on-going qualitative research: (1) duration of engagement, (2) synchronisation of performance and (3) rhythm, are key to collaboration between human beings in merging realities. This paper argues that the same three elements also pertain to multi-agent systems design.
When designing ‘duration of engagement’, a number of aspects need to be considered: initiation of engagement, formats and structures for interaction while engaged, moments of crisis and celebration that affect the engagement and termination of engagement. All participants need to be aware of the status of engagement.
When designing ‘synchronization of performance’ tuning of different presences needs to be facilitated. High granularity in interaction benefits synchronization, just as rapid interactions do. Tuning presence for human beings happens on all levels of consciousness and includes cognitive, physical and emotional understanding. Tuning for agents refers to the capacity to make their identity known to human beings and to the capacity of being able to adapt appropriately to the situation. Synchronization also presupposes a shared domain between human beings and agents. It is ‘presence as agency’ that is synchronized. When agency is synchronized, human beings can accept responsibility and liability for and towards the agents with which they interact.
‘Integrating rhythm’ is necessary for sustained interaction between human beings and MAS to emerge and to be maintained. Rhythm provides a robust structure to which both human beings and MAS can connect. Sharing rhythm enables both duration of engagement and synchronization of performance to be sustained. When sharing rhythm with human beings, agents gain trust.
As described in section 2, witnessing is fundamental for social structures between human beings. True witnessing between human beings includes response-ability, address-ability and transparency of subject positions . When MAS participate in communities of people the question is whether they can match these three criteria. Systems design values of autonomy, transparency, identifiability and traceability  provide transparency of subject positions and address-ability if designed appropriately. However, response-ability refers to human subjectivity: the ability of human beings to take the position of response. Response includes feelings and emotions and the responsibility for these feelings and emotions. Agents can not fulfill these requirements If in good rhythm synchronization of performance of agency is well designed, duration of engagement is well structured, and moments of transformation are well marked, it may very well be that response-ability is not a characteristic that is required of agents.