I knew I wanted to look at Economics and Psychology (as I’ve always been interested in them but never really had to opportunity to ‘formally’ study them’) and have decided that I’m going to pin my research on the issue of online reputation. Although my thoughts are still rather immature at this stage, I’m really interested in how individuals in web communities can actively develop and project their reputations in order to influence others, be in a position to set agendas or simply ‘stand out’ from the crowd. An example would be the underground extremist forum. In the absence of a formal ‘feedback mechanism’, such as that employed by eBay, how do users become ‘leaders’? Is it simply the amount of time they spend in the forum (and their related post count), or are other, more subtle factors at play? And, if there is, is there any kind of ‘blueprint for success’ that can be developed? Alongside this i’d also like to explore how companies, who are operating in an altogether more ‘legitimate’ environment, tackle the same issue. What are their strategies for establishing online reputation with consumers, and positioning themselves as pre-eminent in their field? Are there any parallels between the forum user and the fortune 500?
While i think the tie in with psychology is reasonably clear, the economics link is possibly somewhat more tenuous. I think exploring the concept of social capital and its relative worth could prove fruitful in the company example, but whether or not it will have any relevance to the forum user I’m not at this stage clear. It could be the case that i have to abandon economics in favour of sociology once i get a bit further in with my reading, but for now I’m going to keep my fingers crossed i can find enough linkages to make the exploration worthwhile.
My current reading list is as such focused on economics:
Economics, Parkin, Powell & Matthews (Seventh Edition, 2008)
The Winner’s Curse: Paradoxes and Anomalies of Economic Life, Thaler, 1994
Liquid Love, Bauman, 2003