Trust and mediated presence

Conveying trustworthiness is crucial when working together online. The design of presence, when and how people meet, and when they mediate, influences the way trust develops. There is a structural confusion between trusting in the technology and trusting in the people who operate the technology. A social interface to mediated environments, namely the represented contact between someone who is here and now and someone who is physically present in another place at another time, makes the acceptance and believability of the mediated presence more trustworthy. In the first instance though it is the relationship between those involved in social interaction and the history of their communication that will define how such interactions are understood.

In mediated communication the style of text, image and sound conveys intercultural communication. It is always sent and received by people who exist in, and originate from, local cultures, bound to place and time. These cultures vary and people frequently do not recognize each other's way of communicating. Editing reflects ideas about specific situations of place and time, and about the other people who are expected to receive the mediated content. When editing mediated presence, the contribution and possible actions of other people are designed as well. Generating trust in these situations demands intercultural skills as well as editorial skills in order to express and recognize such sensitive issues, which have the capacity to easily jeopardize any communication.

Mediated presences, especially via the Internet, have changed and blurred power positions between experts and lay people. Large amounts of accessible information combined with new ways of communicating are changing the concept of 'knowledge is power'. In certain areas collaboration between lay people matches the quality of expertise that is produced by experts. Profound questions like 'Do words act?', 'Whose words are these?', 'Do I own my words, images and sounds?', have significant implications for the understanding of social interactions in mediated presence and have considerable implications for the development of social structures as a result.

When mediated presence is perceived in a setting of witnessed presence and also natural presence, as was the case with the networked events, then conversation and deliberation add to the process of understanding what is actually taking place.