If you follow the news from our How’s my feedback? project, you probably know already about the upcoming conference. On 28 June 2011, a range of researchers, designers, managers, government innovators and users will come to Oxford to discuss the technology and politics of evaluation. Specifically, we will focus on the phenomenon of web-based review and rating schemes, i.e. all those platforms that in one way or another invite, aggregate, calculate and distribute feedback about books, dishwashers, lawyers, teachers, health services, ex-boyfriends, haircuts, prostitutes or websites.
There is bound to be a lot of food for thought. While some have greeted this development as an innovative way of fostering transparency, accountability and public engagement, others have criticized the forced exposure and alleged lack of accuracy and legitimacy, pointing to the potentially devastating consequences of negative evaluations.
The conference will tackle these issues head-on. How are we to judge the effectiveness of these schemes? What modes of governance are implicated in their operation? What does it take to establish and maintain such a scheme? How can we make sense of different methodologies, such as algorithmic rankings (e.g. Google Web Search) vs. individual user reviews (e.g. TripAdvisor)? What counts as ‘good’ feedback and what as ‘bad’? What is it to evaluate the evaluators – and will this business ever end?
A special focus will be on our recent attempts to develop a platform that allows people to share their experience with online reviews and ratings — a feedback websites for feedback websites. An excellent line-up of speakers has volunteered to comment on this process from different perspectives, including Malcolm Ashmore (Colombia/Loughborough), Andrew Balmer (Sheffield), Stefan Schwarzkopf (Copenhagen Business School), Ian Stronach (Liverpool John Moores), Alex Wilkie (Goldsmiths) and Steve Woolgar (Oxford).