The Sociology of Trusted Systems: The Episteme and Judgement of a Technology
(Work in progress, 2009)
The goal of this paper is that of taking a first step toward a socio-technical conceptualization of trusted systems. In our view this might help in overcoming interdisciplinary differences and enhancing a common vocabulary for discussing trust issues for the Future of the Internet. In particular our main research question is to understand “to what extent and in which forms existing trusted systems embody social assumptions?” In order to answer this question we propose a new definition of Trusted Systems as situated Episteme: an apparatus of devices that set the conditions of possibility of certain practices while denying other practices. The conceptualization is augmented using the concept of technological mediation taken from the approach known as Actor-Network Theory (ANT). Our approach takes at its starting point the idea that it is possible to use sociological (from ANT) concepts to analyse and investigate the basic elements of Trusted Systems. This analysis opens up new possibilities for the sociological enquiry of Trust on a more micro, socio-technical level. In particular the paper puts forward the idea of Trust as result of the system design.