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Gossip and the Management of Reputation: the Intersection between the Social, the Natural and the Computational Sciences
Aims and questions. Gossip and reputation management are essential features of society. Their investigation is part of the frontiers of research in at least three scientific domains: the social, the natural and the computational sciences. Understanding the dynamics, evolution and change of gossip and reputation requires a truly inter-disciplinary scientific effort. Some key questions in this domain are: What incites individuals to share third party information with others? Under which conditions will this information be honest? How do social networks and the Internet affect gossip and reputation dynamics and vice versa? How do reputation systems evolve, and how do they affect societal outcomes like coordination, integration, inequality and well-being? The aim of this NIAS-Lorentz workshop was to setup a collaborative framework through which scholars coming from diverse backgrounds could identify the most important unresolved research problems in the field, and work together towards the goal of bridging disciplines, methods and views.
Outcomes. The workshop achieved four major tangible outcomes. (1) Though a large variety of different disciplines have made key contributions to the study of gossip and reputation management, so far very little cross-fertilization has taken place. The workshop brought together scientists from disciplines as different as archaeology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, psychology, biology, mathematics, informatics and cognitive sciences to share their ideas. (2) A general framework for an overarching research program was developed, and the first results produced by four interdisciplinary work groups consisted in the sketch of experimental paradigms and analytical frameworks for future work. (3) The work groups delivered the contours of a possible “work package”, which will form the basis for a joint grant application. (4) A large part of the participants committed themselves to setting and maintaining a research community, and they agreed to contribute to the organization of a follow up workshop in 2015.
Major insights. A key insight was the identification of four major domains along which state-of-the art research in the field of gossip an reputation management can be structured, regardless of the large disciplinary differences: (1) The functions of gossip. (2) The act of gossip. (3) The dynamics of group reputations. (4) The interrelation between gossip and reputation. Progress in each of these domains requires input from all disciplines, and insights about possible new developments were discussed.
Workshop format. The workshop was organized around three pillars: (1) The morning sessions consisted of 1-2 invited talks, covering perspectives from different disciplines followed by discussions. (2) A plenary collaborative mapping exercise, in which the "mainland" of the field was elaborated using the Metaplan-technique of eliciting shared concepts. (3) Afternoons were devoted to workgroup meetings and plenary feedback sessions, during which the groups sketched how their “work package” took shape.