Online Trust: A Moving Target

Online Trust: A Moving Target

Natasha Dwyer (Victoria University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2663-8.ch002
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Abstract

The design of trust in digital environments shapes how users relate. By reducing complexity, trust expedites transactions, and thus, some developers of online spaces seek to resolve their users’ trust issues quickly. Some designers approach the problem of trust as a display of evidence. This chapter questions this approach, because it is easy to present a façade of trust on the Internet, and users are increasingly aware of this fact. Alternative design directions are reviewed, such as the enablement of trust, which may feature prominently in the future of trust design.
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Background: What Is Trust And Why Is It An Important Problem To Solve?

Although it can and has been argued that “trust” is central to the functioning of society (Watson 2009), it is difficult to apply a static and complete definition of the term. Trust is a concept that is defined and understood differently. Those defining trust emphasized different elements of the complex concept. Cofta (2007, p. 14) has argued that trust can be loosely and informally described as a relationship within which a trustor is confident that another party (the trustee), to whom a trustor is in a position of vulnerability, will respond in the trustor’s interests.

Luhman (1979) raised the difficulty of defining trust. He pointed to society as a place where trust interactions are grounded. Building on this notion, Clarke et al., (2006) described attempts to deal with trust in the abstract as a “pitfall” and instead call for investigations into trust “in action” that are embedded in a social world. Exploring trust in an interaction context calls for a definition that focuses on trust as a relationship rather than a “mental disposition.”

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