Trust: four dimensions

In this section, I return to trust as such. In chapter 1 I wrote that the title of this dissertation "Presence and the Design of Trust" reflects the inspiration as well as the outcome of the research that is presented here. I focused on the design of presence and when writing stories in the text laboratory in an act of parresia, I found that trust and trustworthiness appeared to be an important issue in the experiences I had. Because I did not want to deal with two 'fuzzy' concepts, presence and trust, I decided to make trust operational by using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a normative point of reference for the quality of social interaction. In this study I argue that natural presence is a tool for well-being and survival. Information and communication technologies facilitate a transcending of time and place by mediating presence and permit a different scale of tracking and tracing and a different scale in collecting and distributing of information and communication than natural presence facilitates. Doing so, information and communication technologies also facilitate the taking of a moral distance, because of the way presence is designed through these technologies. As a result, I argued that when taking a moral distance, the care for well-being and survival is seriously jeopardized. This finding resonates with the fact with the insights in research about trust so far. Even though I do not elaborate on the research into trust as such, I shortly sketch some findings about trust hereunder to give an impression of the relation between well-being and trust as it is argued from a variety of perspectives in research about trust.

From a sociological perspective distinctions are made about how trust as s social phenomenon supports a variety of social structures. Fukuyama makes a distinction between high trust and low trust societies. He argues that in high trust societies with strong family structures and shared belief systems and religion, there is more well-being than in low trust societies (Fukuyama 1995).

With the Internet and the new technologies new issues about trust surface. Since the 6th framework was established in 2004 also the European Commission funds research into trust and several universities, including MIT and Stanford, have established special research groups into trust. One of the participants in the EU program is the research group "Trust: Theory and Technology" (T3) of the Italian National Research Council in Rome. T3 is founded in 2003 and wants to develop a theory of trust because, as they write on their website, "Trust plays a great role in modelling interaction social concepts (such as commitment, delegation, conflicts, etc.) and macro-social concepts (such as dependence networks, market, organization, group, collaboration, etc.)." (Trust: Theory and Technology, 2006). On the website of this research group one can find a collection of publications presenting models and first explorations about trust as a socio-cognitive phenomenon that influences deeply how we interact.

In management theory and social network theory trust also surfaced as an issue of importance. "Trust serves to enhance effective communication and increase productivity within an organization. Relationships based on trust allow transaction costs go down because there is no need for either party to be wary of one another", as is argued by Karen Stephenson and cited in an article written by Art Kleiner about Stephenson's "Quantum Theory of Trust" (Kleiner 2002). According to Kleiner Stephenson has developed measuring models and algorithms with which she analyzes how an organization operates, specifically from the perspective of trust. " "People have at their very fingertips, at the tips of their brains, tremendous amounts of tacit knowledge, which are not captured in our computer systems or on paper," says Professor Stephenson. "Trust is the utility through which this knowledge flows." " (Kleiner 2002).

With this study I contribute to the research about trust by arguing that the design of presence influences the way trust potentially builds or breaks down. Because we have created and are creating new configurations of time and place in social interaction, we are also creating new configurations for the design of trust and distrust as well. When I translate the findings of this study to the design of trust, I argue that there are two other dimensions, next to time and place, that are distinct in social interaction and the way these dimensions relate is a factor of significance for the building up or the breaking down of trust.

You / not-You
The way I relate to the person, organization or system that I communicate with defines how I will understand what happens. In natural presence this relation is influenced by the context that a certain place at a certain time provides. In mediated presence, the context is provided by the connection itself. The relation between the interacting actors defines the context for the understanding of a social interaction. Witnessed presence is catalyst both in natural as well as in mediated presence. Trust builds or breaks down in series of moments of social interaction. Trust influences how the relation will evolve as well as that the relation influences how trust evolves over time. In chapter 2 I distinguished between You and not-You, between people we are in relation with (family, neighbours, colleagues etc.) and the people we are not in relation with. The You/not-You dimension is a qualifying factor for trust. Not only it determines whether and how people socially interact, it also defines what trust can build up or break down as became clear in both the case studies that I describe. I suspect that the processes of attribution, synchronization and adaptation, that makes mediated presence acceptable, influence how trust and delegations of trust develop as well.

Do / not-Do
Through analyzing the effect of taking a moral distance I became aware of the fact that being able to act, to do or not to do, and to receive feedback on these actions, is crucial for being able to take care of one self and others. I suspect that the capacity to act is crucial for the building up or breaking down of trust as well. When discussing the larger technological structures that millions of people use every day, delegation of trust is an important issue. How such delegation becomes trustworthy I will not discuss here. This study, that took the variety of presences as its starting point, clearly concluded that natural presence is distinct. Natural presence needs trustworthy vital information upon which it will be possible to act. Also larger structures for delegation of trust will have to honour this strive for well-being and survival and in this strive the possibility to act and receive feedback upon one's actions is distinct. Therefore I argue that a fourth dimension is crucial for the design of presence and for the design of trust. This is the dimension of Do/not-Do. I call this possibility to act a dimension because the new technologies create new ways of acting as well. Especially when delegating trust, it is possible to act in other times and at other places. The issue of what qualifies as a deed (are words deeds?) and how deeds that are the result of a delegation of trust to other people or technology can be related to the actor who started a series of events, is beyond this study and requires a lot of further research. When designing presence and when designing trustworthy interactions, the possibility to act, to do or not-do and to receive feedback upon one's actions is a factor of distinction for an actor involved.

The design of presence, which at the first glance facilitates a transcending of time and place, also influences how we relate to others and how we can act. Through this study I realize that dimensions of You/not-You and Do/not-Do are as significant, when designing presences in social interaction, as dimensions of time and place. As a result of the four dimensions of time, place, action and the other, create certain trust configurations while they exclude others. How these four dimensions relate creates the ground on which trust can be build or not.