Trust and power. A Foucaultian perspective on trust and interactive media

Colombo, F. (2011). Trust and power. A Foucaultian perspective on trust and interactive media. Zagreb conference: "New challenges and methodological innovations in European media audience research". 7-9 April 2011.

Abstract: In the traditional media (i.e. analogical and non-interactive ones) the mechanism of trust reflects a double articulation. On one hand, the reception of media content by the receiver is conditioned by the confidence he (or she) has in the truthfulness of information/communication (credibility). On the other hand the choice of media devices depends on the confidence the consumers have in different brands and standards (reliability). In both cases the relationship between producer and receiver is clearly asymmetrical. Nevertheless, the receiver/user can shape the meaning of the device. Therefore, trust is a quality of the act of media reception/consumption provided by the autonomy of the receiver/user. The conditions of this autonomy are basically two: opacity of the receiver/user and the episodic (not continuous) ritual flow of communication. In the digital, interactive media, both characteristics have changed: on one hand every single act of the receiver/user can be read by the system (think for example about the use of social networks); on the other hand the communication flow is practically continuous. The differences between these features and those of traditional media reflect the classical distinction made by Foucault between the power of sovereignty and the power of discipline. My analysis will focus on the relationships between trust and power in digital, interactive media. I’ll try to demonstrate how surveillance and “interveillance” deconstruct the classical idea of trust in the media.