Trust: Outside in and inside out

In face-to-face contexts transactions are emerging out of rhythm and coordination. People say that the first moment you meet someone, in those first few seconds, you begin to develop a kind of sense of how to engage.

This is before you start going into any kind of negotiation or anything like that. So it’s just the greeting itself that is powerful. The feeling if can you trust another human being is established in those first few moments. Online you don’t have that; you have to find it. So it takes longer. The establishment of trust in on- and offline contexts has different trajectories.

Focusing on this difference, the conversation between Gill and Nevejan accelerates. In online communication you have to wait for transactions and eventually you will find a way to coordinate, and trust may emerge. However, when sharing the same physical space, trust has to be achieved in order for a transaction to take place. In the real world synchronization and tuning of rhythm goes inside out. And it can be argued that in the online world trust emerges outside in, through series of transactions in which coordination (rhythm and synchronization) is found.

The moment trust comes into existence is the moment when a series of transactions become interaction; where the exchange moves from cognitive understanding to feeling. Possibly this happens when random noise turns into rhythm because when you are in rhythm with someone else, feeling emerges. However, to establish a rhythm in online environments requires a careful negotiation at first. It can be compared to ‘courting’ in a sense. In this negotiation both convention and spontaneity play a role. The online world needs duration of engagement before the advantage of a convention can be drawn upon and it doesn’t have the spontaneity of a face-to-face dialogue. It is a more fragmented world, yet people appear to be capable of establishing trust in online environments as well.
The inside-out-trust trajectory, which characterizes trust in face-to-face contexts, can be compared to music in which the rhythm is all already there and human beings try to find a common composition.
The outside-in-trust trajectory, which characterizes trust in online environments, can be compared to the hard negotiation of armies negotiating their terms of openness for survival’s sake.