Trust, Control, and Design

A study of computer scientists
  • Supriya Singh
  • Christine Satchell
Conference paper


A qualitative study of computer scientists’ use of e-mail in Australian universities shows that computer scientists equate trust with control. They seek information that gives them control to personalise and scrutinise the system. In equating trust solely with control, computer scientists are unlike middle-income residential users or young people. The level of control that is demanded is often so great that computer scientists do not use the technologies they design. For “ordinary users,” “comfort” and “caring” — are important dimensions of trust. Computer scientists also differ from young users of new information and communication technologies. Young users see control primarily as physical control, rather than control over information to personalize and scrutinize the system.

This difference in the interpretation of trust means that when computer scientists design new information and communication technologies, they prioritise the design that gives them the control they want, rather than simplicity and ease of use, usefulness, comfort and caring. Computer scientists’ preference for this single dimension of trust needs to be consciously recognized and supplemented by more general users’ perspectives if they are to design technologies that can be easily and comfortably used by the average user.

This paper draws on three separate qualitative studies conducted by the authors. The first and central study is of computer scientists and their use of technologies with a focus on e-mail. The second and third studies — with which the first is compared — are of middle-income residential consumers’ use of money and a continuing study of young people’s use of technologies.


Young People Mobile Phone Interpersonal Trust Ordinary User Young User 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Supriya Singh
    • 1
  • Christine Satchell
    • 1
  1. 1.RMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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