Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 32 seconds

The other side of “trust”

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 32 seconds

I may be going against the grain in an uncritical way here, but I need to talk about another side to “trust”. Not the side where you’re being cautious, but the side where you throw caution to the wind. Sort of.

Thanks to Terry Elliott’s latest post – i was hesitant to blog this, but now realize that in the spirit of what I am saying, I should not have hesitated to blog it.

Funny, just b4 reading Terry’s post, i tweeted to Jonathan Worth that i might preemptively blog about trust before its week. I wasn’t truly seeking permission, was almost kidding, but also it made me look at the unit’s page on connected courses and it has lots of interesting looking readings, and i was almost intimidated into not blogging… Felt like maybe I should read that stuff first, know what they mean by trust… Then reading Terry’s post, i now realize: i am making my own path; i’ll blog what i want, when i want – no one really tried to stop me anyway; it’s years of schooling that made me feel like i shoulda read sthg first…

(I swear to God, I keep thinking, I’ll just go back and read just one post before I publish this, and then I pull myself back. This post is not about what someone else has theorized, it’s about my experience. Yes. Not everyone values experience, or particularly my own individual experience, but I value it, and I value writing about it… Kind of like this whole blog is my own autoethnography; i write some narratives, i write some more analytical pieces, and altogether it helps me reflect on my experience).

So here goes. Lots of talk about trust, particularly the DML Trust Challenge which keeps crossing my radar via different networks and sub-communities of researchers/educators I work closely with), look like this (pasted from DML Trust Challenge:

“With the opportunities of connected learning, however, comes the challenge to create and maintain trust in constantly changing digital environments. In an open online world where data sharing can enhance learning opportunities but privacy and safety must be protected, effective connected learning environments require systems, tools, and policies that foster trust for networks of learners of all ages as well as for parents, mentors, and educators.”

Err that doesn’t sound like something that builds trust to me. Am I the only one who is uncomfortable with this? I see the “challenge to create and maintain trust” but I don’t immediately think of it in connection with privacy, safety, protection, etc. That focus does not sound like it fosters trust, it sounds like it prevents harm. What’s that got to do with trust? Am I missing something? Sure, you should probably not trust unconditionally (though i naively often do) – but protection does not result in trust. Funny I am right now reading a novel where a young woman plays an online war game and someone from that game finds her in real life and abuses her and stalks her, etc. That’s really worrying. And I am a woman online, I often “block” some Arab males from following me on Twitter when they make rude remarks, etc. And yes, facebook is evil and all that. And yes, google is omniscient and all that. Ok. I’ll be careful. How again does this breed trust?

My Version of Trust
Here’s my side of the story. Inspired by Helen Keegan and Bonnie Stewart, two women I love and trust. Yes. I have known Bonnie for about 9 months now, and I count her among my close friends. I have known Helen for about 3/4 days, and I project we will be close friends…

I met Helen Keegan a few days ago (Monday, I think) when she posted a very warm comment on my blog with a wish to have a tea/coffee – and when I noticed she was in the UK, i thought, let’s hang out! Similar timezones! Since that moment, we have tweeted, DM’d, emailed, and somewhere in between I asked if she was a facilitator in #ccourses and turns out she is. This is really funny, coz she’s a facilitator of THIS UNIT we are in. I just had never heard of her before (whereas I had known most others so far at least by name, like Mike Wesch, Mimi Ito, and had interacted before with others like Cathy Davidson, and am actually connected with others like Jim, Alan, Howard…). So I think I had not noticed her. This is important for one thing: I was not star-struck, so I was totally comfortable tweeting a lot to her. Ok, so to be fair (as she and I said to each other today on Skype) there are a lot of the big names in ed tech who are really open and friendly and accessible. People like Jim Groom (most ppl know my story with him), Dave Cormier, Alan Levine and Howard Rheingold (also the Hybrid Pedagogy folks). They’re accessible. But to be honest, I still remember the first time Dave tweeted back and followed me and commented on my blog, and I thought “oh my God, I am talking to Dave Cormier”, and when Bonnie and I started DMing, and she shared my writing with her students; and the moment Jim Groom asked me to work with him virtually on his workshop for #et4online and I was like “what? What? Jim Groom picked ME?” And when Howard Rheingold commented on my blog and I was like, “oh my God, Howard Rheingold commented on my blog”. I keep thinking this will get old, but again, I remember when I heard Dave call me his “friend from Egypt” in an #ihaq hangout and how that felt; or when Alan blogged things that related to conversations i had with him, or when Pete Rorabaugh started responding to stuff I had written, or when Audrey Watters told me she’d been reading my blog…

Ok but the moment with Helen was so different. You know why? Because I felt she was an awesome person before I knew anything about her! I knew very little about her. I saw her warm comment on my blog, and instantly wanted to get to know her. I went to her blog, discovered the beautiful #whyiteach blogpost she wrote, and tweeted to all my creative/visual friends in #ccourses to let them know about it 🙂 and then I noticed how Helen and I were both enjoying the #ccourses blogs and energy so much, and we started feeding off each other’s energy in this beautiful way….

So today we met on Skype and it was like maybe 20 mins but it was awesome. We seriously talked about a hundred things, and talked deeply about a few things, and I don’t know how this happened, but I trusted her. At some point I said, “i know i only just got to know you, but i am going to tell you this anyway” and i said it with some trepidation, but it was exactly the right conversation i needed to have because i trusted her with something and she both helped me understand it better, and helped me feel better about it. Doesn’t matter what it is. Just matters how someone you barely know can do that for you, once you allow yourself to trust them. Of course, it could have gone the other way, but my gut instinct told me otherwise. And I am so glad I followed it.

A year ago, I was wondering how on earth it was that I could actually “like” someone I have only met online, but now it is completely normal for me to love people and consider them friends. I don’t care, really, that some people are uncomfortable with this, or that they think I am crazy. They don’t know. I remember telling Alan Levine once that i worried people would not be as warm when i got a chance to meet them f2f, but he said his experience was that ppl he liked online he often liked f2f. Funny that a few days later, a total stranger commented on my blog, saying she’d been following it and was scared to meet me lest i turn out to not be the same person she’s imagining!

Back to trust. I am collaborating with a group of wonderful people to play a twitter game with our students this fall. That’s a lot of trust to be giving them, given that it’s been put on my syllabus and is worth quite a bit of my students’ grades now. But I have done some stuff online with these people I trust them, even when some go AWOL sometimes ( you know who you are, and you KNOW i trust you).

I trust my #rhizo14 collaborative autoethnographers, tho we don’t really know what the heck we’re doing but we’re learning as we go.

I trust my edcontexts group – they’re some of the most awesome people I know, and I love the collection of strong, highly active, postcolonial combination of people we are.

And what I would like to study is how to build that kind of trust online. Sure, it takes people who are willing to, with an attitude, open up, and who are happy to stay open no matter how famous they become. But I think it can also be nurtured… And needs, probably, enough really good experiences to keep it going.

I don’t know… Every day I question whether this whole hyper-connectedness thing is a parallel universe that some people will never be able to “get”, “enjoy” or “appreciate”. I wonder if we’re doing something that’s not really as beneficial as we tend to think it is, or maybe not even as subversive as we think it is (Terry’s blogpost again)… If many of us are “outsiders” as in dissenters from the norm in our institutions,only to be building some other exclusive space online, difficult to enter or navigate by others new to it…

As i wrote this, Jonathan Worth tweeted to me about “digital intimacies” – looks like i might enjoy the trust unit then :))

Going now, twitter too active

12 thoughts on “The other side of “trust”

  1. Very good post about trust, thanks Maha. I’ve had experiences with mistrust and being treated badly right, almost, to the end and need to write about that any more. I’m not going past caution any more and that means trusting with fingers crossed and if things go badly, well, they go badly.

    First thing: the trust challenge reads like policy and we all know policy is slippery and worthless. Policy makes a falsehood of “fairness” in a reality of power. It’s like a zone of neutrality where you can appear “true to the human arrangement” and still screw people with impunity. People who rely on policy are simply drifting boats at the mercy of any pirate who jumps aboard. Risk, vulnerability and other horrors to the clan of weasels are BUILT from mistrust and unresolved regrets and fit like burlap against the skin.

    Trust is something that we need and disappointment is a lesson in the way things CAN be, but don’t have to be. Most of us mean no damage on others and have to live with things not ever entirely right.

    And yes, some people I don’t trust and withhold myself from their rat-like regard. Too bad for them:-) And oddly I’ve noticed a growing liking and trusting of people who care for my physical self yet I mostly “know” through their receptionists. People with good intermediaries are not careless or untrustworthy, only busy.

    Quotes – Salesman’s Saying: The secret to success is sincerity and once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
    From Absolutely Sweet Marie by Bob Dylan
    “But to live outside the law, you must be honest
    I know you always say that you agree
    But where are you tonight, sweet Marie?”

    I looked up songs about trust from a list of my favorites and every one was about love and how much it can often hurt. I trust about love?

      1. Interesting thought Maha. If it was possible to remove Freud from the equation (in the West anyway) it would be cool to compare interpretations. I see risk and concern in the father introducing the dangerous snake to the son. But then the father is a snake charmer and may fear for the safety of the snake:-) Would the mother do this?

        I seem to have fallen into connected courses and MOOCs are beginning to blur together. The Stanford Engaged Patient has grabbed my attention too. In a kind of therapeutic way I’m reviewing my relationships with the Medicos but trust is a struggle. Since we both seem to regard strong people with respect, I wonder why my trust is less than absolute with doctors? I seem able to absorb a higher level of trust breaking with female professionals. It feels foolish or competitive or something to trust by gender. Should blog about it.

        1. Yes 🙂 looking fwd to reading that. I don’t think all gender generalizations are foolish, but they must be based on some experience. Maybe u feel more comfortable being vulnerable to women? Maybe women healthcare professionals are more comfy showing actual “care”? I don’t know

  2. I trust you will keep blogging like this.

    The word of course carries it’s own nuances and the ones we wrap around it. As Scott remarked, the DML challenge is not about the kind of interpersonal trust you write about, but about trust of organizations and managers of information (certainly important).

    What plays out here in the description of your bridging over the barriers to connect with Helen reminds me more if the risks and vulnerabilities we test in forming adolescent relationships. Yes we seek kinship but it’s also deep personal connections; it seems (horrible generalization) the relations we form later in life are more about opportunity, leverage, convenience. We risk little as we get so more aware of maybe our own fears.

    So to me the Internet provides a way to explore friendships, collegiality that seem less of an opportunity in our Busy Backson lives (that’s a Winnie the Pooh reference).

    I understand where Jonathan suggests the loss of “digital intimacy” but we only lose it when we stop doing it. That is not my experience. And why do we stop? Well I could roll out more half thought out ungrounded theories.

    No risk, no intimacy, venture/gain relationship.

    We lose trust when we risk and are let down; we gain trust when it exceeds our fears and expectations.

    Trust me 😉

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