From Reputation Capital to Reputation Warfare: Online Ratings, Trolling, and the Logic of Volatility

Rosamond, Emily. 2020. From Reputation Capital to Reputation Warfare: Online Ratings, Trolling, and the Logic of Volatility. Theory, Culture & Society, 37(2), pp. 105-129. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

What are the consequences of the tendency for ubiquitous online reputation calculation to lead not to more precise expressions of reputation capital, but, rather, to greater reputational instability? This article contrasts two conceptions of online reputation, which enact opposing attitudes about the relation between reputation and the calculable. According to an early online reputation paradigm – reputation capital – users strove to achieve high scores, performing the presumption that reputation could be incrementally accumulated and consistently measured within relatively stable spheres of value. Yet, ubiquitous calculation led not to more precise measurements of reputation, but rather to the increasing volatility of online reputation. Thus, a second online reputation paradigm – reputation warfare – has become increasingly prevalent, in which strategic actors indirectly capitalize on systemic volatility produced by reputation’s ubiquitous online calculation. Steve Bannon’s 2016 Trump campaign strategy, which mobilized trolls, exemplifies the indirect optimization of online reputation, placing an option on reputational volatility.

Written in the wake of the 2016 U.S. Trump election campaign, this transdisciplinary article questions how online reputation’s relationship to financialized value is shifting, and why this is significant within the post-2016 political landscape. Drawing from sociological theories of reputation, critical finance studies, media studies, valuation studies and political journalism, I explore how increased volatility – key to derivative finance – reshapes online reputations’ means of producing value, both for online users themselves, and for strategic actors who actively incite others’ reputational volatility. This contributes a novel analysis of how options theory in derivative finance inflects online reputational value to critical finance studies. It also nuances understandings of why trolling becomes normalized in online political campaigns, insisting that such developments be understood in relation to the ubiquity of online ranking and rating systems, which already incite the reputational volatility on which trolling also thrives.

Item Type:

Article

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276419872530

Keywords:

reputation, metrification, social capital, trolling, Steve Bannon, volatility, financialization

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures

Dates:

DateEvent
25 July 2019Accepted
19 September 2019Published Online
1 March 2020Published

Item ID:

26700

Date Deposited:

05 Aug 2019 14:35

Last Modified:

27 Nov 2020 23:15

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.

URI:

https://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/26700

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