Trust and natural presence

Natural presence establishes the trust relationship between two people. Whether this is weak or strong, because people are physically present an exchange of power positions and value systems takes place, upon which the position towards one another is based. Gathering in natural presence can increase or diminish the trust people have in each other. Mediated presence can influence this, but during the gathering in natural presence the level of trust is established that serves as a reference point in the mediated social interactions that follow.

When exploring, when going from nothing to something, conversation is a powerful tool. Mediated presence can help, but in natural presence dilemmas can be more profoundly explored, which is necessary for new concepts to evolve. When entering into a collaboration, when 'deciding to do it', when deciding to become trustworthy to each other, moments of natural presence have an impact. Even when working primarily online, the moment of meeting in natural presence confirms and legitimises the collaboration online.

Conversations about ethics are easier when people are gathered physically, because of the confrontation that is generated by physical presence concerning trust, power and value systems, and also because positions can be explored more openly. In natural presence people can communicate with much more subtlety than is possible in mediated presence. When exploring, moments of hesitation, doubt and uncertainty are crucial indicators in the process, as are acknowledgements of other positions and perceptions. In natural presence all senses can be used freely and unformatted, which makes the communication richer and the results more productive.

Before analysing the case studies I was inclined to think that we, as human beings, were dealing with multiple presences that each have their own reality and are of equal importance because the experience of each presence can be very indulging. In conducting this study I came to realize that all presences are ultimately rooted in natural presence. Without natural presence, no mediated presence or witnessed presence can be received or generated. To be able to partake of mediated presence one needs to have enough physical and psychological energy, access to financial and technological infrastructures and attention. It is the different natural presences that are mediated by mediated presences.

Natural presence facilitates changes in attitude, whereas mediated presence facilitates an exchange of opinions when present in the public/professional setting. The survival value of natural presence is much greater than mediated presence and this influences the quality of conversation. In natural presence all three levels of consciousness can be mobilized in one action, in one conversation. The more these three levels are mobilized, the more powerful the presence experience. The more powerful the presence experience, the more 'survival' resonates in what happens, the more powerful the outcomes of a gathering of the crucial network will be. 'Powerful outcomes' reflect the (changed) power structures in the network, and also how every node in the crucial network will proceed from there. In chapter 4 I wrote: "Crucial networks create vital information for social survival. Possible change is generated through a process of collaborative authoring of outcomes in which design and orchestration are distinct". Mediated presences can provide input into such processes. Because they contribute to the evolving taxonomies they play an important role in the orchestration and in the design. When the crucial network has to confront issues of an ethical nature, the physical gathering is indispensable for the collective authored outcomes to support well-being and survival. Catharsis cannot occur anywhere, anytime, it has to happen here and now, with everybody present. The fact that no mediated presence exists without natural presence and the fact that in natural presence the personal ethical experience is most profound makes natural presence distinct.