Talkin’ bout my reputation

[Dave Birch] I went to a talk by Clay Shirky. The talk was, essentially, about his new book Here Comes Everybody. He’s a very good speaker, had very cogent and thought-provoking material and has made me start reflecting on my model of identity and reputation once again. There’s no point reproducing his talk since you can read the book or the blog yourselves, but there were a few points that I feel like highlighting. The core of what he said was the the technology of the Net has become boring enough to become socially interesting (in other words, my Dad reads my blog now) and one of the first-order effects of this is that media is becoming a call to action. He gave a couple of very well-chosen examples to illustrate the point (taking on the mafia in Palermo via a web site and flashmob protests in Minsk) that it is only now that we are entering the real experimental period as group co-ordination evolves as a branch of political philosophy. This experimental period has some fundamentally new characteristics because of the nature of the underlying technology: in particular, you don’t need anyone’s help or permission to experiment with new models and the cost of failure is much reduced. This sounds like the next phase may be chaos, but as Kevin Kelly observed “bottom up is never enough”. At some point, there needs to be some structure in a group and I think that there is some evidence to suggest that distributed reputation management may well be the only mechanism needed to achieve that once there is some genuine security in place (so that reputations cannot be hijacked). Therefore, my view of the importance of secure credentials is reinforced, because I see reputation as being the history of a virtual identity over time and that virtual identity is a collection of credentials.

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