This week I am returning to an issue I briefly mentioned in last week’s post. And I am reposting the same TED talk by Simon Sinek that I posted last week. This theme of trust has resurfaced as we have been examining Web 2.0 and the implications of the new ways it allows us to connect with people from around the world. I was doing fairly well with the various ideas we’ve been examining in our Ed Tech course: introducing digital technologies into my classroom; using digital technologies in my classroom not merely as an ancillary tool for presenting information but using it as a tool for accessing student learning styles in order to create relevant meaning and knowledge; re-examining the role of the teacher in the classroom – a movement away from the teacher as the sole fountain of knowledge and information and toward the teacher as guiding students and helping them develop critical thinking and meaning-making skills; and seeing/using Web 2.0 as a more collaborative and generative medium than Web 1.0.
I am struggling again with the idea of trust, in light of the opportunities presented by Web 2.0 for connecting with and collaborating with people from around the world. I agree with Simon Sinek in the previously mentioned TED talk (relevant portion here), when he says that “nothing replaces human [face-to-face] contact” when we attempt to build trust between us. I am often amazed at the possibilities that the internet presents us for connecting with people in far-flung parts of the world, people we likely would never have met or been able to contact otherwise. With the use of video technologies (e.g., Skype), we are now at least able to see our interlocutor on the screen. But I return again and again to my need for human, face-to-face physical contact. Perhaps the younger generations are more comfortable with the notion of a ‘friend’ whom they have never met in person, someone with whom they have had only on-line contact. I don’t think I ever will. Not fully.
If this truly becomes the new – and importantly, only – paradigm for human connectedness and relationships, I believe we would be losing something intangible and valuable. In my opinion, we would lose the human element that machines and processors will never replace. Machines are able to communicate with other machines, but the idea of trust in this type of communication is irrelevant – it cannot even be said to exist. We are able to use machines as tools to communicate with people, but at what level? Simon Sinek poses the question: if you were concluding negotiations and your business partner, who had agreed to all your conditions/terms, refused to shake your hand, would you be able to trust them? Setting aside the idea that shaking hands is culturally-based and not a universal idea, I do believe that trusting someone requires some sort of physical contact and that this is universal (though perhaps becoming less and less so).
Lest I be labeled a ‘digital dualist‘, I’d like to think that I am becoming more and more comfortable with different definitions of ‘reality’ and ‘relationships’ and ‘connectedness’. For me at least, and at this particular point in my exploration of the implications for on-line and off-line (virtual and real, to use the digital dualism perspective terminology) life, my on-line life/reality is still secondary to my off-line life/reality. My on-line activity/reality is another layer, voice, or register. And I’m still going to need that handshake.