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The internet has altered how people engage with each other in myriad ways, including offering opportunities for people to act distrustfully. This fascinating set of essays explores the question of trust in computing from technical, socio-philosophical, and design perspectives. Why has the identity of the human user been taken for granted in the design of the internet? What difficulties ensue when it is understood that security systems can never be perfect? What role does trust have in society in general? How is trust to be understood when trying to describe activities as part of a user requirement program? What questions of trust arise in a time when data analytics are meant to offer new insights into user behavior and when users are confronted with different sorts of digital entities? These questions and their answers are of paramount interest to computer scientists, sociologists, philosophers and designers confronting the problem of trust.
The International Monetary Fund's main building is situated a short distance from the White House in Washington, D.C. From the outside the building is nondescript, and indicates nothing of the institution's importance in world affairs nor about the activities that are undertaken within. From the inside, however, the building offers a much more spectacular and informative view. The building has an enormous atrium ensuring that nearly all of its offices have a window. Most, of course, face outward, towards the World Bank across the way on 19th Street, for example; but the remainder face in and the occupants can gaze across the atrium at their colleagues on the other side of the building. For those who do not have an office – an ethnographer for example – the landings by the lifts offer vantage points on to the atrium. Here the ethnographer can view the institution's staff in action: as they sit around conference tables in meetings, move from one office to the next, or crouch over their workstations keying in data. Indeed, during my own ethnographic vagabondage in Washington, these landings provided me with havens in which I could wait in between interviews or could jot down notes from a meeting I had just finished. Sometimes I would simply rest here and dreamily watch the theatre of bureaucratic life before me.
In this chapter I want to explain what some of the activities I observed involved. I want, if you like, to give those activities the meaning that they so obviously lacked from the windows on to the atrium. Such a goal is of course the fundamental task of ethnography.
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