Brief: Design a way to track and trace human contact that builds trust
Members: Amber Lau, Tanvi Kulkarni, Felix Kirk, Nancy Obeid
Collaborative Partner: Tactical Technology Collective

Comments from weekly presentation

In terms of the layout of findings, although we tried to use different colours to separate the sections, the information is still hard to navigate during the presentation. Overall, our current research is still very shallow, more theoretical practice, cultural practice and sociology practice is needed. On the bright side, our tutor suggested us to take a deeper look on surveillance.

It was a nice approach to search for tracking method with and without technology, but they suggested us not to pay too much focus on with non-technology tracking on human scent because it might set us to a difficult position (how can we bring scent to the next stage?), it might not provide us design opportunity. (view last blog for human scent summary)

In addition, compare to the research we have done, they were mainly about tracking and tracing, we haven’t done much research from the trust perspective. They suggested us to think about how we experience trust in our live, and how do we build trust with people, organisation, machine, and system. They also suggested us to think reversely, on “how much privacy and security level is too much?” since people don’t need the same level of trust in everything e.g. trust for an oven vs transferring money from a bank.

Research — Structure of Trust

Listened to their advice, we started to do more research about trust. Georg Simmel once proposed three mental elements that would occur to form trust, that is interpretation, suspension and expectation. Interpretation is the idea that uses live experiences with the existing world as the trust base. It is more than just rational thinking and involves abstract elements such as the emotion side as well. Suspension means rejecting and disregarding other possibilities and uncertainty, and lastly expectation is the last state of the trust process, it is the result of previous two process. Faith and rationality are both involved.

Other research also support the fact that trust wouldn’t exist with only rational self-interest, it also involves faith, emotion, and reciprocity in the process of trust.

Structure of trust by Georg Simmel

Research — Surveillance Society

Surveillance in small community vs society

Before digital surveillance emerged, surveillance do appear in one’s eye and architecture, such as the watchful eye in small local shops to prevent shoplifter, and the design of panopticon to make prisoners feel they are always being watched without knowing whether the guard is actually looking at them. These approaches belongs to a solution to discipline people in certain context.

Emergence of a post disciplinary society

However, when the society is constantly monitoring and regulating one’s actions and behaviours, it also imply that one’s that privacy, freedom and democratic rights will be deprived away. Like what William Staples said, in essence, this surveillance culture is shaping us to be a “docile” citizenry, it becomes disciplinary lead instead of democratic ones. Use Singapore as an example, this country has ranked as one of the top countries in the world in “Order and Security” and “Effective Criminal Justice”, but at the same time, it also has very limited “Freedom of Speech” and “Freedom of Assembly”.

While fear is also part of the reason for having surveillance (i.e fear of something bad/ unpredictable/ uncontrollable things would happen), this phenomenon also got us think whether the disciplinary society that was built from permanent surveillance is what people going to live for the rest of their life… What happens if there is more trust involved that surveillance is no longer needed? Giving less control and more freedom and privacy between one and another…

Research — Trust in System

So apart from trust between human and human, and human with surveillance, there is also trust in system and information. In Hyo-Cheol’s paper, he proposed a Trust-aware System Framework to define what a trustworthy system is and which information can represent and evaluate trust with four steps.

There are four steps in total, but to keep it short, the author proposed using provenance model a basis to evaluate and determine whether the system is trustworthy or not. A provenance model contains records of the system’s behaviour, condition, past experiences, reputation and modification etc. If it is proven, it means the system is trustworthy and we can then cooperate with that specific system.

Through the reading, the writer has pointed out the elements that can affect trust in a system and a way to evaluate it. So when we started to work on our design, we can also take what he said into consideration and build a system that people trust.

Trust-aware system proposed by Hyo-Cheol

Research — Surveillance & Religion

In research done by Stoddart and Yngvesson, their study talks about how surveillance practice in religious group ties with law.

While most intersections are uncontentious and acceptable by both laws and religious group. There are a few areas that needs to debate, such as legally required but not religiously permitted, like arresting radical believer but the church has a different definition of “radicalism”; and religiously required but illegal, like keeping a close monitor with women. These grey zones makes it hard to define what’s right or wrong with situation like this.

And to judge these situation in a more reasonable way, “human rights” is added as an additional layer so people can take ethical, privacy, and freedom into consideration as well. For examples, back in February, there’s a church in Korea that forbidden their believer to wear glasses and face masks during the coronavirus outbreak. It resulted in a huge rise of infectors in Korea. Religiously, we should respect their religion. But when it comes to national security problems like this, can we debate for using our human rights and limit their freedom of religion? Can law take control over religion right under situation like this?

Research — Trust in Religion

As previously mentioned, the structure of trust goes through 3 stages. While “suspension” is to eliminate uncertainty, this doesn’t seems to apply much when trust built in religion. In India, the Hindus who believe cow is their god would drink “gomutra’ (Cow urine) and cow dung because they believe it can cure coronavirus… With the rational thinking process, people would believe it when there’s scientific prove. However in this case, mental and faith with “God” creates a larger trust than any logical thought. Perhaps that’s also a reason why some people who have religious background would believe in miracles when they reached to a dead end where no one can solved.

In fact, religion do matter in social trust as well. According to Daniels and Von Der Ruhr, higher level of social trust would increase when people have direction interaction under a well-structured voluntary organisation like religious organisation. In other words, sharing same belief and having face to face interaction can be a source of building trust.

Experiment — Create a Trust Supporting System

In a research that was focus on trust with ubiquitous applications, Hoffmann and Sollner proposed an approach embed with behavioural trust theory to enhance the system development process of ubiquitous systems so as to improve people’s trust when the end system launches. From their approach, we know that we first need to identify what uncertainties people have, then determine which antecedents that foster trust are related to the uncertainties, and eventually apply that to the system as part of the functional requirement. At the end this would eliminate the uncertainties people have with the system hence trusting the system more.

Trust Supporting System proposed by Hoffmann and Sollner

Since each of us are from different country, we thought of doing an experiment to test the level of trust they have, identify their uncertainties, as well as knowing whether there’s any cultural differences according the countries. We created two experiments in total, details as follow:

Experiment One

Providing four drinks with each given with different information, and see which two options they would prefer. For information, the first only contains see through content; the second one would include all the ingredients; the third one is by brand name; and the fourth one is by someone’s recommendation.

Turns out the result was quite different between countries. Apart from from India and Hong Kong who have the most votes with knowing the content of the drink, people in Lebanon trust one’s recommendation more, and people from London prefer branded ones.

As for the second option, the Indians would trust famous brands more, while the others are more towards someone’s recommendation. It is fun to noted that Lebanon people has the same amount of votes between having information of the drink and recommendation from others.

In sum, a common fact that everyone share is recommendation from professionals and someone they are close with. This doesn’t apply to celebrity spokesperson who are trying to sell the product though.

Experiment one results

Experiment Two

For the second experiment, only Tanvi and I participated it, so the data only contains results from India and Hong Kong.

Given a see through drink that claims to be made by us, see whether people would drink it without knowing the ingredients. If people don’t trust with it, we would mention one ingredient and see whether they would change their mind. If they continue not to trust, we would tell them the second ingredient, and so on.

With the same size of 13 (India), and 15 (Hong Kong), we noticed that the result was quite different. While most people from Hong Kong (10 out of 15) doesn’t mind drinking it without knowing the content because of trust of kinship and friendship, only five people from India are willing to drink it.

We did follow up and asked for the reason for not drinking it, all of them mentioned it was because of lacking of details. Once we told them about what was included in the drink, majority of them were willing to change their position and drink it (identify the uncertainties then provide methods that gain trust to eliminate it). Only two people from each side still refused to drink it because of the favour of the drink.

Experiment two results


In sum, every country has their own judgement in terms of their first choice, but one thing in common is that they would trust when there’s recommendation to people they know or professionals such as nutritionist. In terms of unknown item, it shows that Hoffmann and Sollner’s idea on improving one’s trust through their approach can work. It also turns out that it can apply to different context rather just a system.

*NOTE: Due to COVID-19, all of us were facing lockdown and not being recommended to go out. Hence the experiment only conduct with people we know. We didn’t have a chance to do it with strangers.


Move on from the experiment, we also wanted to continue investigate the cultural differences in terms of government surveillance and privacy. We created a survey asking them about their knowledge about privacy rights, acceptance on the level of surveillance, their conscious and unconscious behaviour, and degree of trust with the government.

At this stage, we still haven’t send the survey out, we hope to get more feedback from our tutors before asking people to fill in.


This week, we have done more research with more specific topics. I am learnt a lot from it, and it feels like our research is getting more comprehensive. I really like the way we could think of an experiment base on theory, the result turned out was quite surprising as well, we were able to explore different cultural dimension as well as the characteristic of trust to different domains. Through the second experiment, I got to understand more about people’s thought in terms of trust. One thing that is made me most happy about was the time people willing to drink the drink I made because they trust me. Fun fact: I actually made the drink to make the experiment more realistic and reliable.


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