Reputation Power

Rosamond, Emily. 2017. 'Reputation Power'. In: Goldsmiths MFA Lecture Series. Goldsmiths, United Kingdom. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

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.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)


reputation, economy, credit scoring, social media, digital, online networks, shaming

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


6 March 2017Completed

Event Location:

Goldsmiths, United Kingdom

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 Nov 2017 11:57

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:40


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