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Emily Rosamond • Reputation Power

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Published on Apr 4, 2017

2.7 — Emily Rosamond : Reputation Power

In digital, data-driven economies, reputation is being ever more pervasively quantified, operationalized and gamified. Omnipresent ‘like’ buttons and seller/host reviews encourage online users to assign, acquire and attend to ‘reputation power.’ FinTech start-ups devise new credit scoring methods, based on ‘really deep, rich understandings of you as a person’ through data analytics (as ZestFinance CEO Douglas Merrill put it). Meanwhile, China plans to undertake a reputation experiment on a massive scale: a nation-wide Social Credit System, to be implemented by 2020, which will track citizens’ social and financial trustworthiness in hopes of establishing a widespread ‘sincerity culture.’

Reputation metrics discipline behaviour; but they also shift the legal and institutional grounds through which behaviours take shape. For instance, Frank Pasquale suggests that there has been a recent shift (particularly in the U.S.) from medical record to medical reputation. As privatized insurance-logic meets ever-expanding data flows, insurers can check exercise stats on smartphone apps, offer discounts in exchange for participation in wellness programs, and otherwise differentiate between those more- or less- ‘worthy’ of care.

Reputation claims to represent the worth, or power, of its bearer; but perhaps it says much more about the imbalances of power diffused across hyper-quantified social and financial networks. As such, it becomes a complex practical and tactical concern – not only for individuals seeking a good position, but also for companies, politicians, activists, abusers and avengers.

How might we arrive at a theory of reputation power which accounts for these complexities? How has contemporary art fuelled, diverted or resisted the flames of reputation power – and how might artists respond now? This lecture explores select moments in the cultural histories of reputation, and identifies a few recent interventions in this tactical, financialised field.



Bio: Emily Rosamond is an artist, writer and Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at the Arts University Bournemouth. She completed her PhD in 2016 as a Commonwealth Scholar in Art at Goldsmiths, on character in the age of big data. Recent publications have appeared in Paragrana (2016), Finance and Society (2016), Message (2015) and the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media (2015). Forthcoming essays will be included in A Market of Values: Transacting (Intellect Books, 2017) and Moneylab Reader #11 (Institute of Network Cultures, 2017). Emily exhibits individually and with her collective, School of the Event Horizon.

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