Trust and technology in collaborative consumption. Why it is not just about you and me

  • Keymolen E
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Trust relations online cannot be analyzed as mere interpersonal interactions because of the new complexity mediating technology brings forth. Based on the work of the German philosopher Helmuth Plessner (1975), I will argue that distance is constitutive of men’s life form and that the endeavour to bridge this ontological gap, for example by producing technology, is an important driving force in human action. Human beings are artificial by nature (Plessner 1975). They have to mould their own world and create a balance they are deprived of by nature.. Artefacts, when they enter the domain of culture, gain their own momentum, they possess a kind of objectivity that stands apart from their creators (de Mul 2003, 261).Nonetheless, technology par excellence holds an utopian -and therefore misleading- promise of not just bridging this ontological distance but of overcoming it (de Mul 2001). Online users are enabled to collaborate in a way that resembles interaction based on reputation and face-to-face contacts in small communities. Botsman (2012) claims that: “trust will become the currency of the new economy”. I will make a case that trust through technology as Botsman describes it will not lead to interpersonal trust as we know it from direct interaction, but will result in what I call interpersonal system trust, with an active role for technology in building and shaping these trust relations. In view of the fact that technology can bridge but cannot overcome distance, bringing along new complexity, it is not enough to simply translate cues of interpersonal trust to an online environment. In analyzing trust online, one has to take into account the specific workings of the online technology, its mediation (Verbeek 2011b), to see if and how measures have to be taken to ensure trustworthy online interaction. I will suggest that at least four aspects of internet technology need to be taken into account when analyzing online trust: context, code, company, and country




Keymolen, E. (2013). Trust and technology in collaborative consumption. Why it is not just about you and me. Bridging Distances in Technology and Regulation, 135–150. Retrieved from

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