Representations of the Concept of Trust in the Literature of Library and Information Studies

Dean Leith


Governments and organizations around the world are increasingly turning to knowledge and information sharing as a lead strategy for developing response capacity to address issues in a wide range of programs and policy areas. The sharing of information and knowledge within organizations may be influenced by a range of factors, one being trust. This paper seeks, firstly, to identify and explore some key theoretic approaches to trust applied in the broader social sciences literature, including trust as a “leap of faith” or willingness to vulnerability; trust as a key component of social capital; and trust as a component of the concept of power-knowledge and truth- telling as found in the work of Michel Foucault. Second, the paper presents the findings of a meta-analysis conducted of recent library and information science (LIS) literature in order to analyze how these three theoretical approaches are represented. Findings of the meta-analysis indicate that the trust definitions offered by two of the three theoretical perspectives investigated are well represented in recent LIS research; that other simpler definitions of trust are also represented; and that over one quarter of the sample were found to offer no explicit definition of trust. Analysis of these latter studies suggest that trust is represented by the implicit views and assumptions of researchers and the focus is more on the embedded authority of the information or abstract system rather than on the trustor as an essential component of the trust dynamic. DOI:

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