Trust in minority communities to be researched

A University of Aberdeen researcher has received funding to study the ways that trust is formed and lost in minority communities impacted by high levels of digital and social exclusion.

Dr Karen Salt has received the funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of its commissioning process for projects exploring the theme of Empathy and Trust in Communicating ONline (EMoTICON).

While the study of trust and empathy in social situations is an established area of enquiry, relatively little research has addressed the ways that such issues occur in, and subsequently shape, online communities.

The EMoTICON call addresses this area with a specific focus on digital communications, funding research which will help scientists understand how empathy and trust are developed, maintained, transformed and lost in social media interactions.

Dr Salt’s project, The Trust Map, emerged from the basic premise that social equity is underpinned by trust and empathy. In communities where trust is lacking, issues relating to social exclusion and power may arise.

She commented: “The UK is struggling with a number of issues about belonging and community cohesion.

“Rather than conducting an empirical study about exclusion and power or creating greater access to resources, this project asks what may lie at the root of a number of significant social problems: trust in structures of power (such as government bodies) and in each other. By working in communities and with community members, this project places the people who live with the reality of trust and power, every day, at the centre of its endeavours.

“They are our best sources of knowledge about the impact of these processes. We must do our best to learn from them.”