In a recent article Written by Joseph Blocher in the Yale Law Journal entitled Reputation as Property in Virtual Economies, Joseph takes a ‘lawyers eye view’ of emerging trends in online reputation, social capital and the implications of the two as a tradable commodity/property.
“Economists and legal theorists have long argued that real-world economies cannot function effectively without well-defined property rights. More recently, scholars have also begun to analyze at least three kinds of ‘virtual’ economies: the online economies exemplified by eBay and other trade-facilitating mechanisms; the economies in virtual worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft; and the virtual reputational economies associated with MySpace and Facebook. The first two economies generally involve the exchange of familiar forms of property. But scholars have thus far failed to fully identify or analyze the property underlying the reputational economy. What that economy demonstrates, especially in its virtual form, is that reputation itself — social status and the respect of others — can usefully be understood as a form of property.”
This is not far off from Bourdieu’s theories of social capital previously discussed on the Ponoko blog. Blocher discusses the reputational economy in a similar way.
“The importance of success in this reputational market can for some people be just as important as financial wealth, many people’s lives virtually revolve around social-networking sites and blogs. Indeed, by now it is old news that millions of people spend more time thinking about their Facebook profiles than their investment profiles.”
Now there are also theories that internet use as a social networking leverage drops off rapidly in teens, (for example) as soon as they are old enough to have the freedom (a car) and suddenly MySpace and Facebook is dropped for real, hormone driven face to face interactions. (according to Dr Genevieve Bell)