Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

The becoming of social media: the role of rating, ranking and performativity in organizational reputation-making

Baka, Vasiliki (2012) The becoming of social media: the role of rating, ranking and performativity in organizational reputation-making. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (7MB) | Preview


This thesis explores the concept of reputation-making with the aim of explaining how the rise of user-generated content websites has influenced organizational reputationmaking practices in the travel sector. The findings are based upon a corpus of data including: a field study at the offices of the largest travel user-generated website operator, TripAdvisor and an adaptation of virtual ethnography called “netnography”. Rating and ranking of hotels on social media websites has not only disturbed the established reputation-making practices of professionals in the travel sector and contributed to a significant redirection of reservation revenue but has performative consequences for tourist encounters. In other words, it is argued that if key assumptions underpinning the rating and ranking of travel change, the enactment of travel itself is reconfiguring and this has important implications for how reputationmaking occurs. The reconfigurations documented in the study are theorized using the lens of Process Theory. Originally inspired by philosophers such as Bergson and Whitehead and adopted in the work of organizational theorists such as Tsoukas, Chia, Langley, and Nayak, the choice of Process Theory to inform the conduct of this study resonates with key streams of existing reputation research that view it as a dynamic phenomenon. Core concepts within Process Theory, such as “becoming” enable further investigation into the precise nature of this dynamism by focusing on relations as always fluid and on the move. The challenge, even for literature that acknowledges phenomena as dynamic, is how to temporarily pause the flow for the purpose of analysis and thereby approach becoming without disturbing its inherent nature. This is taken up in the first analysis chapter which uses the notion of place to illustrate and analyze reputation-making using the process of becoming. The chapter argues the importance of recognizing the temporary pauses produced by rating and ranking mechanisms as generative rather than merely reductive algorithmically produced representations. In this way, we get closer to understanding the performativity of phenomena such as TripAdvisor and produce fundamental insights informing organizational reputation-making. It is argued that the organizational devices through which travellers’ engage with the places they visit are not only “making” reputations but are also making formative differences to the practice of travelling. In the second analysis chapter, a key issue associated with these changes - the intensification in focus on service – is explored further and in-depth examination of the field data is used to highlight ways in which TripAdvisor amplifies attention given to the specific characteristics of practices when they are performed. This provides evidence to ground Tsoukas and Chia’s (2002) proposal that organizational change is achieved through ‘microscopic changes’ thus reinforcing the processual nature of change. In so doing, key insights are generated to inform organizational reputation-making. Returning to the tenet of becoming in the third analysis chapter, the “circle of (il)legitimacy” embraces processual principles - for the nature of the circle is to have no beginning or end – but acknowledges the cumulative outcome of configuring practices for hoteliers through a discussion of key issues emerging in the travel sector. The relationship between reputation-making and legitimation is highlighted with examples of the additional processes through which reputation can now be made vulnerable within multiple jurisdictional contexts. The thesis concludes with the assertion that if we aim to understand the phenomenon of reputation-making, we have to develop a more nuanced and sophisticated way to conceptualize its formativeness. It is suggested that this extends beyond snap shot assessments or post-hoc crisis management to on-going maintenance of its emergence and development as well as processual changes across time and space.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 Vasiliki Baka
Library of Congress subject classification: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Scott, Susan

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics