Distrust, mistrust, untrust and information practices

Submitted by Isto Huvila on Mon, 06/27/2016 - 13:12

Paper at the ISIC 2016 conference in Zadar, Croatia.


Introduction. We report the results of an investigation of the role and implications of the shortage of trust (untrust), mistrust and distrust in the context of information work. Whereas trust has been discussed extensively in information studies literature, its 'dark side' has been largely omitted before.

Method. The conceptual discussion is based on empirical material gathered using thematic interviews of (N=17) Swedish archaeology professionals with special interest in the management of archaeological information.

Analysis. The analysis of the interviews was based on a method drawing from the constant comparative method and close reading of the transcripts.

Results. The analysis shows that it is possible to distinguish systemic factors related to components, systemic processes and environment that contribute to the emergence and persistence of trust, distrust, mistrust and untrust, and shifts between the different modes of (un)confidence.

Conclusion. Distrust, mistrust and untrust have related but distinct influence on information work, they coexist with trust and can have similarly positive implications for the information activities. Finally, similarly to distrust and trust, also untrust and mistrust can be conceptualised following Luhmann as strategies of reducing uncertainty.


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