Trust in the Virtual/Physical Interworld

In Charles Ess & May Thorseth (eds.), Trust and Virtual Worlds. Peter Lang (2011)
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The borders between the physical and the virtual are ever-more porous in the daily lives of those of us who live in Internet enabled societies. An increasing number of our daily interactions and transactions take place on the Internet. Social, economic, educational, medical, scientific and other activities are all permeated by the digital in one or other kind of virtual environment. Hand in hand with the ever-increasing reach of the Internet, the digital and the virtual, go concerns about trust. In the increasing numbers of cross-disciplinary attempts to understand the way that the Internet is changing our societies, ‘trust’ is a truly cross-boundary word, used just as frequently by computer scientists as it is by economists, sociologists and philosophers. Concerns in the name of trust are articulated about the objects and artefacts found, accessed or bought on the Internet, about the people with whom we interact on the interact, and about the technological systems and infrastructures that enable us to carry out activities of different types. This paper reflects on the implications for trust of the way we shape our technologies and they in turn shape us, for example, in the way we trust and the extent to which we can trust ourselves as trusters. The account I am working towards is an ecological and co-evolutionary view of trust and technologies, which attempts to hold in view the complex inter-relationships between the agents and other entities within and across environments. First, I consider the ways in which problems of justifying trust are analogous to problems of justifying knowledge, and claim that trust, like knowledge, cannot be justified from an external position. Second, I outline an account of internal relations drawn from phenomenology. This is followed by a discussion of three aspects of trust which are internally related to it: value, reason and morality.



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Annamaria Carusi
University of Copenhagen

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