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Why Bowl Alone When You Can Flashmob the Bowling Alley?: Implications of the Mobile Web for Online-Offline Reputation Systems

Karpf, David (2009) Why Bowl Alone When You Can Flashmob the Bowling Alley?: Implications of the Mobile Web for Online-Offline Reputation Systems. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece.

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This paper explores the implications of the mobile web for expanded use of reputation management and collaborative content editing systems and enhanced forms of civic participation that may develop as a result. The paper bears upon the Websci’09 topics of Trust and Reputation, Networking (Social and Technical), and Government and Political Life. Previous scholarship has identified reputation tracking as a necessary precondition for the development of large-scale online participatory communities (Resnick 2000, Benkler 2006, Lev-On and Hardin 2007). Reputation systems incentivize good behavior while spreading out the costs of monitoring and policing bad behavior. They provide a crucial alternative to the logic of the firm, allowing for the scaling up of collaborative content creation in the absence of formal hierarchies of authority. To date, however, their use has been limited by a critical reality: reputation systems stop at cyberspace’s edge. Offline activity that is supported through online coordination is at a distinct disadvantage due to the additional opportunity costs involved with collecting reputational or content-based ratings once offline actors have returned to their computers. This has biased new internet-mediated forms of engagement towards strictly internet-based activites. As the mobile web diffuses to larger segments of the population (10 million iPhones have already been sold in the past year and a half, and Google’s Android operating system could speed the diffusion rate along even more), this bright-line distinction between online and off becomes blurry. The dramatic reduction in transaction costs facilitated by web-based communication is being introduced to a whole host of new activities thanks to the emergence of these location-aware, ever-present mobile devices. It is likely to produce a range of novel participatory associations, with interesting consequences for public life. The paper is divided into four detailed sections. Section 1 provides a taxonomy of existing distributed reputation tracking systems. These include the heavily-traversed eBay Feedback Forum (Resnick 2004) and Slashdot’s “Mojo” system, among others. Some of these systems rate users based on their personal behavior, others rate the content those users produce. In all cases, reputation tracking is meant to incentivize good behavior, spread out the burden of policing bad behavior, and introduce a “shadow of the future” to online activity. It also discusses the existing limitations of such systems, a topic which has received surprisingly little scholarly attention. The second section introduces the location-enabled mobile web, discussing the core differences and novel capabilities of the internet-through-iPhone as opposed to the Internet-through-stationary-terminal. Of particular interest are a set of location-aware internet communities that have recently been developed, with special attention paid to and Though they can be accessed through laptop or desktop, these communities provide telling examples of the growing utility of online tools to offline activity as the web’s presence increases in daily life. The two examples help to illuminate the implications of mobility and ubiquitous access for the development of what I term “network-enhanced goods.” Section three offers two brief though experiments, exploring how the mobile web, once in wide circulation, might change the everyday citizen’s experience when confronted with a (1) MoveOn-organized house party and (2) a rude Department of Motor Vehicles agent. These stylized examples lay out some likely implications of a heavily-diffused mobile web – implications that can only be accessed through thought experiment at this early juncture. The paper closes by discussing a host of likely implications; some problematic, others promising. The first of these implications is a renewed digital divide. Differential access to high-powered mobile web devices, and the skill to use them effectively, is likely to exacerbate class-based and educational cleavages within society. The second is an upwelling of location-based political associations. experienced some limited success during the 2004 presidential election, but was limited by the available hardware and software platforms of the day. As location-enabled information becomes increasingly available through the Internet, a sort of “Dodgeball for political partisans” becomes probabilistically more likely. The barrier between internet-based associations and offline action may be replaced as organizations incorporate online search, filtering, and communication protocols into their daily activities. Third is an expanded set of opportunities for what Benkler has labeled “commons-based peer production,” as the previous limitation on these activities – the feasibility of distributed reputation tracking of offline activity – is relaxed. Fourth and finally, the specter of privacy concerns becomes increasingly menacing, as online information abundance is inexorably tied more closely to the offline world.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Mobile Web, Reputation Systems, political and civic associations, social networking applications
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:107
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:51

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