November 3, 2008
Over on iBlog, Claus used a term that caught my attention:
Networks such as ERRIN, which is funded by membership contributions and invests in what I would call “TRUST 2.0.”, help to establish that collective understanding and culture of cooperation and facilitate successful involvement in EU projects.
While he freely admitted that “Trust 2.0 does not exist …”
… I was just looking for an expression that could describe what I mean by people interacting on a regular basis and systematically learning from each and developing a proper trust base, learning what they can expect from each other and what not, as juxtaposed to ad hoc interaction …”
… my point would be that perhaps it should, despite the fact that the last thing anyone needs is another buzzword with a “2.0” tacked on at the end.
The term caught my attention because it could be part of the vocabulary needed to track the way relationships between people have changed with the advent of online social networks. How many “friends” on Facebook really qualify for the term? Am I really “well connected” now because I have a lot of connections on my LinkedIn profile? I have my doubts.
The concept of trust interests me in this context because research shows that, these days, people trust people defined as “like them” more than anyone else – more than, say, previously trusted figures such as their doctor, government, and the media:
“Consumer recommendations are a powerful thing as Edelman found with the Trust Barometer where “a person like me is now the most credible spokesperson for companies” and Forrester with “recommendations from consumers” being the most believable form of advertising.”
– PRBlogger.com: Nielsen research confirms Edelman and Forrester
This is significant because social networks allow everyone to find and interact with people “like them” more easily than even before. Noone in your village, or family, or company, may understand you, but all you need to do is log on to your social network, or visit your favourite blog, and you’re among people just like you, people you can trust. People who say what you think – perhaps more loudly, or more persuasively than you – so you end up thinking what they say.
This leads to groupthink, of course, as online communities close in on themselves and shut out signals that could disturb the comfortable worldview being developed inside.
As I pointed out in a discussion on Stalney’s blog, this has significant consequences for any attempts to explain how the EU works, or should be reformed:
… how many British people actually understand, say, the Parliamentary Select Committees? … Many don’t, and they find that perfectly OK, whereas the complexity of Brussels is considered a huge problem. The difference is one of trust. Most people trust their national setups … but apply different standards to the EU level. They do not trust it, and so feel threatened by their lack of understanding of it.
… [When people don’t trust an] institution, then everything about that institution is viewed with distrust. So anything the institution says to convince people that it *is* democratic, that it *is* useful, is automatically pre-filtered negatively.
(See also previous post on how eurosceptics reacted to the launch of Blogactiv.eu as if it was an attempt to ‘take over’ the EU blogosphere).
So maybe the EU’s trapped in a cycle of not being trusted, and therefore unable to make its case. And that’s a shame, because – as Stanley pointed out in another post – the EU does a lot of very useful things at the specialist level, which are by definition very boring to the vast majority of people. Stanley’s post was about “control personnel responsible for ensuring the safety of food and feed”, but the same applies to professions as diverse as cancer researchers and transport planners.
So perhaps, instead of organising massive publicity campaigns, the EU should ensure that participants in EU projects talk to everyone around them – their friends and family, and via their online communities – about how, and why, the EU adds value to the work they do. Then, maybe, trust will develop bottom-up. Top-down doesn’t seem to be working.Mathew Lowry