It seems to me that there is a lack of a serious Reputation Research Institute (RRI) with a universal scope. The upcoming reputation economy will in all likelihood come, whether we want that or not. So, we should prepare for that in the best way possible. For that, we need more research. Serious academic research, which ideally should be publicly accessible.
At the moment there seems to be a Reputation Institute, but that is very much corporate and focused on the reputation on (large) businesses. Personal reputation is out of its scope entirely. For personal reputation we have Reputation.com, but that is mostly focused on managing your private or corporate reputation, and not so much on researching how those reputations behave, or what kind of reputation systems would be best for different applications.
Reputation systems seem to be a very much neglected area of research. At the moment there are many different reputation systems, which were designed for different purposes, for example:
- Credit ratings for estimating the likelihood of defaults
- Karma scores for ranking posts and posters on Reddit
- Klout for measuring the influence of people in social networks
- Star ratings for letting customers rate products and organisations
- Quantified Prestige for rewarding people for laudable actions
- Backfeed for handling value distribution within decentralized organisations
It stands to question whether those systems are actually best suited for their intended purposes, or whether they could be improved, or replaced by superior systems. Without a universal framework for classifying and evaluation reputation systems such questions are hard to answer. An important task of a RRI would be to develop such a reputation system framework. In parallel, a RRI could also develop its own reputation systems, which would be suggested for general use. Or it could suggest improvements on already existing reputation systems.
Why is a Reputation Research Institute really needed?
Reputation is becoming increasingly important as economic determinant. As such, research on reputation would fall into the domain of economics. Complementary, reputation is also a very important social determinant. Thus, it would also fall into the area of sociology. Other academic fields which might be connected are:
- Political sciences (how do reputations influence politics?)
- Psychology (how do people form reputations?)
- History (what was the historic role of reputations?)
- Future studies (what roles will reputations possibly / plausibly / probably play in the future?)
Of course, cynical critics can question the need for those scientific disciplines entirely. As long as people stay curious, they want someone to do such research, regardless. Anyway, it’s not like we could practically do split tests between societies which do such academic research and comparable societies which don’t. The main purpose of science is to figure things out, regardless of the practical utility of scientific results. Nevertheless, it can be expected that research in the field of reputation should be quite useful for individuals, organisations, and society in many different respects.
Why isn’t there a Reputation Research Institute already?
Up until recently, reputation has been a very intangible thing. The recent attempts to quantify reputation change that situation. Apparently, the research community seems to be slow at picking up such fundamental changes. Possibly this is merely a reflection of the lack of general awareness of the increasing importance and quantification of reputation. When nobody is aware of those trends, researchers logically can’t be an exception to that rule. In fact, a few people are aware of the shifting role of reputation, but this awareness hasn’t spread very far, yet. It needs to reach big influencers, before it can actually become effective and trigger the creation of organisations dealing with reputation research.
That’s why we need to make a fuss and get big influencers to take notice of what’s happening in the area of reputation systems. Then we might get the traction and funding that’s needed for creating a RRI.
What are your thoughts on this potential project?