Trust online: Who Authorises Authority?

In the 21st century human reality is intensely mediated through the knowledge, information and resources made available through offline and online technology. The media is not simply an institution that provides information and entertainment; it provides people with access to resources and important social networks. Through the growth of the global media and the diversification of its activities our reality is dominated by a world constructed through and by the media. However our capacity to realise the potential benefits of the new media is limited by absence of authoritative online institutions.

In contemporary times authority is continually tested, negotiated and contested. Gone are the days when individuals or groups could enjoy unquestioned authority. We may live in a knowledge economy that values the status of experts but the public continually demands that scientists, policy makers and the media account for their statements. Through experience and competitive claims making, society takes the authority of some sources of information more seriously than others. People are more likely to trust what they hear on the BBC or what they read in The New York Times than what they encounter through less reputable sources. However on the internet the situation is more fluid and confusing. The new media is evolving at a rapid pace and is still in the process of constructing new forms of authority.

One of the big questions confronting the on-line world is who authorises authority? How can people decide which sources of information to trust? How is authority earned, maintained and developed?

One of the principal focus of my research is the constitution of authority and the building of trust online. One of my aims is to provide advice to facilitate strategic decision makers about what kind of trust-building measures are most suitable for consolidating the authority of their projects.

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