Trust without touch – A reflection

This paper discusses the importance of trust between people during computer-mediated communication (CMC). Face to face meetings before CMC can improve trust, but this is not always possible. The authors show that trust is much higher if people do not meet beforehand but rather engage in various getting-acquainted activities over a network when compared to CMC after doing nothing beforehand, they also found that using chat to get acquainted was nearly as good as a meeting and even seeing a picture is better than nothing.

Trust in collaborative environments matters differently in different settings. Coworkers located in different locations may require higher levels of trust in each other while communications in less formal environments may require a different level of trust altogether. For effective CMC, each party’s expectations must be considered. This is especially true when designing a CMC system. Websites such as Wikipedia require a certain level of trust in users, but some of this is offset by building rules of engagement and keeping conversations public. While Facebook and Instagram conversations with strangers may require a higher level of awareness of the opposite party. Wikipedia or Reddit users may prioritize the privacy of personal data, which may affect trust in CMC. Beyond using acquainted activities, it may be beneficial for participants in such networks to use a quality rating or trust rating scoring system. A combination of both these systems could be useful especially in transactional websites such as Airbnb and Uber.

To enhance CMC, it is not only important to improve trust but also to understand the expectations of each user. Further studies could look into context-driven levels of trust in different CMC settings.