Past special events

The Academy was delighted to sponsor through its Section Workshop Scheme the ‘Trust and its discontents’ workshop which was held on 26 September 2018 in Melbourne.

The event was hosted by the Academy’s Cultural and Communication Studies Section and convened by Distinguished Professor Stuart Cunningham AM FAHA FAcSS (Queensland University of Technology),Professor Julian Thomas FAHA (RMIT University) and Professor Jean Burgess (Queensland University of Technology).

Highlights from the event have been made on Twitter using #AAHTrust


The Banking Royal Commission and the crisis in governance of world-spanning digital platforms such as Facebook have focused public discussion in Australia and elsewhere about falling levels of public trust in business, media, social media and government. The Edelman Trust Barometer, a widely-cited, survey-based report on the topic, is one example of a host of recent studies reporting an ongoing decline in trust for all institutions. Edelman’s 2017 report notes a particularly sharp fall in trust in the media, reflecting growing concern over disinformation, or “fake news”. Some of the basic systems by which we entrust others — such as the commonplace agreements in which we give “informed consent” — are said to be broken by new digital technologies of control and surveillance. The question of trust is now centre stage in our hyper-sceptical, highly-mediated and globalised world, and the humanities and social sciences should play a central role in explicating the challenges for, and mitigating the risks to, the social, cultural and democratic fabric arising from the erosion of trust.

The workshop aimed to illuminate critical aspects of the current problem and future prospects of trust, drawing on recent work in the humanities and related disciplines. It fostered a deeper examination of what trust involves, engaging with the complexity of its cultural practices, and the forms of technological and institutional design it relies upon. The event considered the remedies for mistrust in public institutions and the media, and the emergence of specialised systems of exchange designed to reframe radically the issue of trust. The workshop contributed to an exciting, interdisciplinary field, involving contributions from anthropology, cultural and communication studies, ethics, philosophy, history, economics and finance, and law.


Download the program for all abstracts and biographies.

Select presentations are available below.

Session 1 


Key note presentation by Professor Genevieve Bell (Autonomy, Agency & Assurance Innovation Institute and Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, Engineering & Computer Science, Australian National University)

Session 2


Steven Spurr (Edelman Australia)  — Edelman trust barometer 

Professor Frank Bongiorno FASSA (School of History, Australian National University) — Australian political trust in historical perspective

Emeritus Professor Tim Rowse FAHA FASSA (Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University) — The reconciliation barometer as a measure of trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

Professor Justin O’Brien (Australian Centre for Financial Studies, Monash Business School) — Trust and its discontents

Session 3


Dr Karen Jones (Philosophy, University of Melbourne) — A field-guide to everyday (social) pathologies of distrust

Associate Professor Nic Suzor (Law School, Queensland University of Technology) — A constitutional moment for the ‘net: protecting human rights online

Professor Jean Burgess (Digital Media Research Centre, Queensland University of Technology) — What fake Peppa Pig videos can teach us about trust

Professor Bronwyn Carlson (Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University) — Indigenous Australians and informal networks of trust on social media

Session 4


Dr Mikayla Novak (Blockchain Innovation Hub, RMIT University) — The cost of trust

Associate Professor Ellie Rennie (Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT University)  and Professor Julian Thomas FAHA (Social Change Research Platform, RMIT University) — Trust, AI and blockchains: Imagining automated decision making