Dissertation Abstracts

Trust, but Know How!: The Problem of Quantitative Research of People's Trust of Mass Media Institutions

Author: Kudriavtceva, Natalia , kudriavtceva.n@gmail.com
Department: Communication
University: Vienna, Austria
Supervisor: emer. Univ.- prof. Dr. Thomas A. Bauer
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Trust , Media , Communication , Indicators
Areas of Research: Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Social Indicators , Sociocybernetics


Trust is a common phenomenon, a term which we use in our everyday lives. At first glance, trust seems to be an obvious notion, so most of us would hardly find any need to ask “what is trust?” or “what does it mean to trust somebody or something?”

The logic of most empirical studies on trust seems to follow the deceptive transparency of the term, and therefore respondents are often asked to answer the question “How much do you trust …?" At the same time, within the scientific community, trust is considered to be a highly complex concept which might consist of different components, imply different social strategies or might be defined contextually. Apparently, there is no consensus between scholars about meaning of trust.

This research was motivated by countless statistical surveys which aim to measure trust as an immanent category of media use by analogy with such calculable issues as frequency or intensity. The popularity of such measures confirms that the topic of trust in media is at stake. Moreover, widespread interest in this topic is has to do with the increasing power of media in the process of social construction. Hence it is of great importance to support future empirical research about trust towards mass media, accompanied by an appropriate detailed theoretical study about the topic.

In my research, I propose to reconceptualize trust as a mediality construct that implies deconstruction of the concept of trust not only in relation to media organization(s), but in relation to media communication as a process of societal sustainability formation. The topic of trust in such contexts addresses ontological and epistemological questions about the nature of communication. I accept as a constructive element for further theoretical modelling concept of the broad functional interrelations between media system and wider social system which obscure the contingencies underlying the media process. This assumption holds a perspective to media impact on social reality from which media institutions obtain power not to reflect but to constitute our sense of social reality, which in turn opens up a new approach to reconceptualizing trust of mass media.

The main advantage of my research derives from the complexity of the proposed approach: it requires an intellectual inquiry that is based on reliable theoretical methodology, a conceptual framework, and credible indicators of people’s trust towards mass media institutions. The research problem is shaped by enormous body of existing scientific texts devoted to concept of trust; on the other hand by existing gap between theory and practice, between concept and method, in researches issued on trust.

Finally, the proposed methodology implies that contemporary media institutions gain power not only in order to reflect, but also to constitute our sense of social reality, and stress the role of trust in this process.

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