The Reputation Chameleon

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by: C. Sven Johnson

For those of you who recall my earlier entry discussing the Philips Design probe discussion (reLink), consider this a follow-on post.

I took the time to sit in on the Philips meeting and while I crashed out (twice) and lost my chat record, you can read it here: “Sophrosyne’s Saturday Salon: Philips Design Probe – SKIN:Tattoo” (Link).

I hadn’t really intended to get too involved with the discussion,
but… well, you know how it goes. And as I mentioned something I’ve not
really discussed here, I figure I’ll point it out and include related

So, from the meeting/chat log discussing “changeable tattoos”,
here’s an edited/shortened portion (to clean up the grammar and
spelling as well as to more efficiently tie together threads of

Csven Concord: What about the potential negatives for this sort of tech?
Yel Oh {Philips designer}: The negatives are of course very much an issue, but remember we are talking post-2020 here.
Sophrosyne Stenvaag: I could see going into a business meeting and setting them to “randomize” – or hacking them to give incorrect info –
Csven Concord: Why is post-2020 important in this context?
Yel Oh: Well, Csven, negatives for a current technology may not be such issues in ten years time . . .
Yel Oh: …although there are bound to be other negatives instead.
Csven Concord: Same could be said of “positives”.
Csven Concord: I’m just curious if you’re tracking both.
Csven Concord: “The street has its own use…”
Sophrosyne Stenvaag: Maybe the most interesting thing about tech is how its users hack it to fit it into their own social context.
Yel Oh: More interesting is to consider deeply the positive (and negative) mis-use of technology applications.
Csven Concord: Scenario: morphable tats become “skinboards” (future billboards). Flood the beaches. And the hackers have a field day.
Yel Oh: ahhh, Csven so bleak . . .
Sophrosyne Stenvaag: skin spam –
Csven Concord: In an effort to stay positive, what
about RFID-style applications people might want? Say, for group
association that opens access to shared products (displays,
coffeemaker, etc)?
Csven Concord: Or, something I was considering a while back: a “[transreality]” system involving reputation.
Yel Oh: Can you say more about that, Csven?
Csven Concord: So your reputation actually gets
reflected both online (e.g. via iKarma), and is connected to your real
skin… which morphs according to how Good or Bad your rep is.
Csven Concord: Could do the same with skin implants. “Beauty” reflecting reputation.
Wendyy Mahana: Yes, Csven, that is definitely something you can think of.
Shirley Marquez: That won’t please the people who like to keep their virtual and real existences separate.
Natsumi Yue: What if you have an undeserved bad reputation?
dandellion Kimban: Is that the world you’d like to live in or the worst nightmare?
Wendyy Mahana: And who defines the reputation?
Csven Concord: 😉

Natsumi, dandellion and Wendyy all hit the nail on the head. Their
concerns are my concerns (even when I’m pretending to spin things in a
“positive” fashion for the host’s sake).

For those following me on twitter, “reputation chameleon” probably
rings a bell since the term is in one of my saved twitter lists (also
dutifully added to my “pre-Alpha” blog entry – reLink).
It’s not that I’m opposed to reputation systems. I’m just very wary of
them. And the “reputation chameleon” concept was born out of my
thoughts regarding the potential manipulation of a highly connected,
transreality reputation-based system.

A reputation chameleon would be a person who, either through “smart”
fabric or – more fancifully – morphable tattoos, manipulates some
visual indicator of their reputation in order to better fit within a
particular social environment. For their own purposes, of course.

As an example, in well-heeled circles someone might “wear” a
reputation which garnered the trust of potential targets. While back in
the mean streets, they might appear to be both well-connected and
dangerous; essentially wearing the bright colors nature assigns to
poisonous animals or to those which falsely use similar marks for
defensive purposes. In both cases, the individual’s relevant reputation
for the appropriate social context (because reputation is often
dependent on environment) might be something else entirely.

For now it’s just an interesting bit of imaginative play, but I
won’t be surprised when high tech clothing starts to make something
like what I’m imagining possible. In any event, here are some recent,
relevant links I’ve collected. All either concern or are somehow
related to the issue of reputation.

“Manifesto for the Reputation Society” (Link)

“Fabric displays” (Link)

Dattoos Personal Skinprint Technology Concept (Link)

Nanogirl: Dermal Display concept (Link)

LiveScience : “Invisible ‘Radio’ Tattoos Could Identify Soldiers” (Link)

Andy Oram: “Reputation: where the personal and the participatory meet up” (Link); also, in installments, on O’Reilly (Link).

Karmasphere (Link)

ipkarma (Link); also on Mashable (Link).

Web of Trust (Link); also on Mashable (Link).

And just for fun, I thought I’d include a “Thou Shalt Not Bear False
Witness” example; a link to someone who I suspect would be a very active reputation chameleon. She’d almost certainly make a great beta tester for exploring the limits of such technology. Enjoy (Link).

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