The Banking Royal Commission and the crisis in governance of world-spanning digital platforms such as Facebook have focused public discussion in Australia and elsewhere on falling levels of public trust in business, media, social media and government. The Edelman Trust Barometer, a widely-cited, survey-based report on the topic, is one example of a host of recent studies reporting an ongoing decline in trust for all institutions. Edelman’s 2017 report notes a particularly sharp fall in trust in the media, reflecting growing concern over disinformation, or “fake news”. Some of the basic systems by which we entrust others — such as the commonplace agreements in which we give “informed consent” — are said to be broken by new digital technologies of control and surveillance. The question of trust is now centre stage in our hyper-sceptical, highly-mediated and globalised world, and the humanities and social sciences should play a central role in explicating the challenges for, and mitigating the risks to, the social, cultural and democratic fabric arising from the erosion of trust.

The proposed workshop aims to illuminate critical aspects of the current problem and future prospects of trust, drawing on recent work in the humanities and related disciplines. We aim to foster a deeper examination of what trust involves, engaging with the complexity of its cultural practices, and the forms of technological and institutional design it relies upon. We propose to consider the remedies for mistrust in public institutions and the media, and the emergence of specialised systems of exchange designed to radically reframe the issue of trust. The workshop will contribute to an exciting, interdisciplinary field, involving contributions from anthropology, cultural and communication studies, ethics, philosophy, history, economics and finance, and law.