[iDC] Introductions: Tom Slee

Tom Slee slee.tom at gmail.com
Thu Sep 11 14:02:08 UTC 2014

Hello everyone,

I'm a late-comer to the Digital Labor conference, but hugely looking
forward to being part of a conference that is both committed and academic,
and to hearing the contributions of people here, especially as I'm already
a fan of several people on the list (can I say "fan"? Not very

Here's the canned bio I sent to the organizers:

Tom Slee writes about the intersections of technology, politics, and
economics. He has a PhD in theoretical chemistry, a long career in the
software industry, and his book “No One Makes You Shop At Wal-Mart” is a
left-wing game-theoretical investigation of individual choice that has been
used in university economics, philosophy and sociology courses. He blogs at

And here is the proposal I sent in:

*Bad Reputation*

Those who work on sharing economy platforms are told that reputation is
their most valuable asset and their key to future opportunities. There is
no doubt that reputation is important to us, so the idea that it is an
asset in which we should invest sounds natural and appealing, but it is
Drawing on what we know about the use of digital reputation systems by
eBay, Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft, this talk tells the distressing story of
"reputation as an asset" in the world of digital labor.
One strand of the story tells of how digital reputation systems, which
promised to help build communities into the networked age, have instead
been used to extend a harsh free-market logic to previously-protected areas
of our lives. Another tells of how the community roots of reputation have
become a Trojan horse for a project to replace democratic governance with
private and unaccountable centralized systems of surveillance and
discipline. A final strand shows how the very idea of reputation as an
asset encourages and promotes the gaming of community-based reputation.
The story of "reputation as an asset" prompts a question: Can the
reputation of reputation be restored, or is it a broken concept that can
only be bad for digital laborers?

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