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The sour grapes of the digital-divided people: information and communication technologies and the costruction of trust.


This paper presents the first results of an ongoing research project on the construction of trust and social capital in the “network society”. Contemporary society is characterized by an information overload which makes it crucial to have high skills –both cognitive and technical– of information selection and processing. The new media are co-responsible for a situation where people are daily confronted with (and depend on) a massive amount of information coming from technological “black boxes” upon which they have little or no control. Technologies have come to be part of people’s everyday life as an “unproblematic presence” – the Trusted Computing device being an example – whose genealogical history and functioning mechanisms are mostly unknown to common people. In this paper we want to argue that a constructivist perspective could reveal the discursive nature of technology and technology-related notions such as “risk”, “trust”, “security”. We started our research from a theoretical questioning of the construction of trust between social actors and the new media. Initially we made a preliminary analysis of the notion of trust within the different rational choice theories. Eventually we carried out a first empirical phase where, through the use of qualitative techniques, we profiled six typical social actors with regards to relationship with the new media. These profiles became, in the second empirical phase of our research, the protagonists of a multi-agent computer-assisted simulation in order to verify the role of trust and critical media education both in increasing the agents’ willingness to question mainstream notions and practices and adopt a more critical attitudes with regards to new media, but also in reinforcing and radicalizing the exclusion of the excluded (via a “sour grapes” effect).