Online reputation – a new standard for the digital economy


As the Summer Olympics in Rio were coming to an end, a top athlete faced probably the toughest challenge in his career. The US swimmer Ryan Lochte’s sport results are faultless, and his medals all in check; as a 12-time Olympic medalist, he is ranked world second in swimming, behind Michael Phelps.

But when the global media published a security camera video showing someone’s bare behind while urinating against a wall, sports came in second. Search of Lochte’s name online was now listing hundreds of articles and comments marked by keywords such as ‘lie’, ‘manipulation’, ‘vandalism’, ‘false report’, ‘drunk’, and alike. It all started to wear off only after news aggregators showed a title reading that major sponsors have ended endorsement contracts with Lochte.

While we could still argue whether clothes make the man or not, there’s obviously a solid ground to the notion that we infer conclusions and make our decisions based on the appearance of a person, all that we could know about someone, and any associations formed along the way.

Our presence, within intimate circles and in front of global audience alike, is directly influenced by subjective opinions, estimates, feelings and habits of people evaluating us. That is how a reputation is built – a sum of attitudes and opinions a community holds of a reputation holder, enabling the social environment to estimate their expected behavior for better or worse.

As a shared cultural conception of value and a form of individual social capital, reputation extends over digital and non-digital networks in an increasingly freelance-based labour market.

In the old days of public communication, when the news moved at a slower pace and, more importantly, when views and attitudes of the general public changed with no haste passing through many filters on their way back to the feed, Ryan Lochte would probably have had more time for all the facts to get checked, or at least ‘recontextualized’. And before the mass media even emerged, a detail that questions a national hero’s word would hardly ever made its way through the rainforests and favelas to the upper circles of a developed world.

The mechanics of forming social relations remained more or less the same, though; instead of personally getting to know each individual, organization or event within one’s own living domain, humans developed a complex system of assessing and associating based on information available within a community. Those data make one’s life easier, saving time in making decisions and providing notice of possible risks and gains in advance.

Available information of a community form some sort of a storage of shared impressions, experiences, and memories, that each member can choose from at convenience. Or, better yet, something similar to a lake, with lots of streams flowing in from above or under ground, with occasional torrents and droughts, mudflows, pollution, and cycles of calm and clarity.

Full text (.pdf) of the article authored by Djordje Krivokapic and Milica Jovanovic: “Reputation Online Games”