Time is the beholder of trust

Where before place was often the beholder of trust, in online communication, time has become the first beholder of trust (interview Hazra 2008). Trust evolves from timing transactions online, whether one is downloading a patch of software, posting on a mailing list or commenting on Facebook (interview Abraham 2008). Online- and systems reality challenges human experience of time. Communi- cating and collaborating in merging realities needs specific time designs to be satisfactory.

In the establishment of facts and the construction of factual truth, date and time are crucial indicators for connecting evidence with witness reports (interview MacFaydyen 2009). Current concepts of date and time are dependent and tied to place. In this sense, facts are time and place dependent while the experience of the 24/7 information economy seems to offer ‘no place and no time’ as virtue.

When people do not share place and the specific nature- and clock time in that place, a deliberate time design is necessary. In international business, for example, sustain- able social online interaction depends upon such time design. When communicating online, people have to inte- grate their rhythms to each other within the larger organi- zation in which they participate. Work processes are orchestrated in rhythms, and shared rhythm is vital for success. Creation of shared rhythm in online collaboration requires knowing when to meet between time zones, with which medium, for which purpose and for which task. There is no coffee machine where synchronization can take place. The experts interviewed in this study agree that there are specific moments when people need to meet in person to establish trust and truth. Expectation and anticipation are both in on- and offline communications defined by the kind of relationship involved (interview Wilson 2008).

It is crucial to adapt local sense of time to a shared sense of time with clients and collaborators abroad. Regularly, one person is about to go to bed while the other person just woke up; yet, one has to synchronize performance. In the outsourcing industry in India, this has led to completely new social infrastructures where, for example, young women travel by night, restaurants stay open, and family structures adapt (interview Ilavarasan 2008).

When working in the IT industry, unlike many other industries, performance and quality of work can be assessed online. As a side effect, especially in the Global Service Delivery model in India’s outsourcing industry (where due to lack of trust between business partners employee’s work is logged and monitored 24 h a day), duration of engagement has become a design issue in itself. Human beings do not appreciate being monitored 24 h a day; it causes stress and ruptures in identity formation (interview Ilavarasan 2008). People need time off; engagement needs a start and an end for it to be beneficial. The 24/7 economy is detrimental for human beings. Systems can be active 24/7; they do not get tired nor get bored as do human beings. Human beings need moments to celebrate, moments of catharsis, moments in which failure or success is shared (interview Narayanan 2008). Failure is fundamental to human growth and takes time to be integrated in a human life, while technology will just treat failure as malfunctioning (interview Narayanan 2008). Human beings need to construct meaning and share this process at distinct moments in time. Systems do not need such moments of catharsis.

When designing time in processes in which systems and people collaborate, differences in scale, organization and experience of time between systems and people have to be taken into account. Duration of engagement, integrating rhythm, synchronizing performance and making moments to signify, are fundamental dynamics from which reciprocity emerges.