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Digital reputation: What is the value of a person's online reputation?

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Originally published on Technorati

Author Marina Gorbis published her new book in April 2013 which advances the following theory: A person's reputation on the Internet and new media channels may increasingly be quantified into "social currencies," which online friends and peers view as possessing some form of intrinsic worth.

In her book released on Tuesday, "In The Nature Of The Future: Dispatches From The Socialstructed World," Marina Gorbis contends that modern society is moving away from the depersonalized world of production toward a new social economy built on digital connections and rewards. Instead of constructing (an Industrial age term), Gorbis refers to the above process as "socialstructing".

To illustrate, the author refers to a fictional “Reputation Statement of Account” which resembles a monthly statement from a bank. Gorbis writes, "instead of accounting for your monetary transactions, it tells you how much you’ve earned by contributing to [websites], how many points you’ve earned by providing rankings or ratings on various community sites, or how much social currency you’ve spent by asking someone for advice".

While this seems a futuristic notion, companies and solutions providers are now monitoring social reputations for clients. Some are beginning to attach quantified value based on an individual's social ranking or prominence.

Gorbis identifies several examples currently in practice. The Whuffie Bank is a non-profit that is building a new currency based on reputation that can be redeemed for real and virtual products and services. Similarly, a new online game called Empire Avenue "simulates a stock market in which shares in individuals can be traded and one can track individuals’ market value based on their following in various social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube".

If Marina Gorbis is right, individuals may need to become more proactive in managing their social presence as there could be a real financial stake, such as in a hiring decision by a prospective employer. Take for instance President Barack Obama's official Twitter account. In 2012, the New York Times ran a story that up to 70 percent of Obama's Twitter followers may be fake, and purchased using black hat vendors.

Some companies are offering individuals and businesses a way to be proactive online. A company named Bizvizable monitors online and social reputation. StarCount offers social rankings for celebrities. Similarly, ranker.com publishes social media rankings, mostly for famous people with a lot on the line.

It's conceivable, and likely, that social rankings will be bundled into a product and sold to human resources departments, private investigators, creditors, law enforcement, courts, and any other interested party. Google already tracks a user's activities across various accounts, including Google+, YouTube, Google Wallet, and news forums.

George Washington wrote, "I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."

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