The New Trust Experience Through Beautiful Seamfulness

Criteria: Where user empowerment is pivotal to a decentralised economy, designing user experience and interfaces for the new trust paradigm has to find a fine balance between complete seamlessness and allowing users to acknowledge where the seams that cause friction to trust exist. The degree to which the optimal balance is achieved will determine the level of autonomy and empowerment the user will experience in a trustless environment.

Beautiful seamfullness has three concepts adapted from ubiquitous computing, where seams occur at the points of interaction between the components of a system caused by variations between heterogeneous mechanisms in the underlying infrastructures and by technical limitations.

In the context of user experience and interface design, optimising the defined parameters within these concepts enables a project/network to provide a holistic experience to end users.

  1. Seamless design – invisibility

“Invisibility is when a tool does not intrude on one’s consciousness and lets one focus on the task not the tool. Invisibility can be seen as a measurement of seamlessness, and lets one focus on interaction in general instead of on the parts.” (Source)

2. Seamful design – appropriation

“Because seams frequently cannot be completely hidden, it weakens the seamless ideal system. Instead of fighting for a utopia and try to iron out the bumps of a ubiquitous computing application, seamful design tries to include its different parts while recognizing and maintaining their characteristics and uniqueness.” (Source)

In seamful design, a concept called appropriation empowers the user to be more aware of seams and interact with the seams in a non-compulsory way.

3. Social Navigation – interaction driven

“The idea of social navigation is to aid users to navigate information spaces through making the collective, aggregated, or individual actions of others visible and useful as a basis for making decisions on where to go next and what to choose.” (Source)

Designing for the new trust paradigm

The empowerment of the end user is core to a decentralised economy. Increasing empowerment of users through the new trust paradigm leads to cognitive surplus gained from acknowledging that their thoughts, interactions and data are protected by such an empowerment. Where the lack of empowerment might dissuade users from participating and further, from collaborating.

In the ever growing complexity of the internet age, there are attempts to make end user experience seamless, hiding seams of friction that the user need not have interaction with. But designing user experience that appears to be seamless is often acknowledged by the end user as ceding trust and potentially their privacy to unknown parties. These requirements are anything but empowering to the end user.

Beautiful seamfulness is not about whether seamless experience or seamful experience is better, but rather about the balanced approach that allows for the transition from invisible to visible seams and back again if the need arises.

Therefore designing for the new trust paradigm, has to find a fine balance between complete seamlessness and allowing users to acknowledge where the seams that cause friction to trust exist. In such a paradigm the ceding of trust becomes an opt in option as opposed to opting out or not participating, empowering the end-user.

Designing for the new trust paradigm consists of:

– Trust in blockchain – lack of central authority, trust that the open source design of the blockchain is the function that it serves
– Trust in other users – trustless environment for interactions
– Trust in privacy (user data) – data ownership is required to be robust allowing for an opt in option as opposed to an opt out when interacting with networks.

User experience and interface should focus on highlighting seams that cause friction, whilst making invisible post acknowledgement of seams that cause no friction. Opaque “User Agreements” by the likes of Apple or Facebook, are typical examples of an opt-out option that requires users to agree to cede trust from the outset. In a decentralised ecosystem where user empowerment is pivotal, a move towards an opt-in option becomes critical. Designing the user experience then involves making the seams of friction for trust visible at points where a user necessarily needs to understand that the trustless environment they believe they are operating within is compromised.

“Therefore, seamless interaction but seamful technology is the end goal. Chalmers & Galani point out that underlying infrastructural mechanisms in interaction design are “literally visible, effectively invisible” (Source)

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