Bridges of trust

The notion of 'social interface' was elaborated upon at Performing Arts Labs (UK) in 1994. Performing Arts Labs (PAL) had invited about 20 people from all over Europe who had been creating events in which technology played a major role. Many of us had used real time connections as part of a show. Several conferences, concerts and dance events had taken place by that time, Paradiso being one of the venues where this had occurred. While describing how artists, who were present elsewhere, could become real here, we coined the term 'social interface'. It is not only a relationship of trust, it is also the representation of the relationship of trust. It is stage design, it is technology design, it is evident in the lyrics and in the detail of the presence design. Good social interfaces make mediated presences acceptable in a performance setting. A social interface works well when the trust between two interacting mediated presences is shown, whereby both are witnessed in mediated presence and one in natural presence as well.

With the Russians' videophone connection on the first day, the representation of the trust relationship between Captain Crunch and the group of Russians on the picture phone was very believable. If we were to assess whether this was empirically true, we would have a difficult time. The fact that they were there and that we were here and that we were actually communicating with each other is impossible to prove without delegating some trust to someone or something. We could make a second connection, we could invent an original action that had to be replied to, we could send independent people who could monitor what happened, but in the end we could also have been faking it all.

Even when in the same place, a variety of perceptions and truths are possible. In science and literature we can see this fundamental dilemma of humankind. What is truth? What do you see, what do I see? One of the most beautiful depictions of this dilemma for me is the film Rashomon by Akira Kurasawa. Something happens. We see the same scene four times from the four different perspectives of the four actors. In the end we do not know whether a rape has taken place, unless we decide to identify with one of the characters. One needs a perspective to be able to be a witness, just as the measuring instrument defines what can be measured.