Complexity Theory and the Dynamics of Reputation

Priscilla Murphy, Dawn Gilpin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


This chapter applies basic concepts of complexity theory to the process of constructing or deconstructing reputation. Complex systems are made up of individual agents who interact locally to adapt to their immediate situation. These myopic adjustments accumulate into large-scale patterns that affect the larger society, often in unanticipated, unstable, and uncontrollable ways. The chapter looks at central concepts of complexity theory-interactivity, adaptability, self-organization, instability, history, permeability, and constraints-pointing out their bearing on the dynamics of reputation. Next, it looks at complexity-based methodologies to model reputational issues, currently case studies and network analyses. The chapter describes theories of complexity as part of an overall trend in public relations theory and practice toward a local, participatory approach that is flexible and adaptive, rather than an organization-centric approach that tries to control reputation by ascertaining public sentiment and applying corrective tactics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Communication and Corporate Reputation
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780470670989
StatePublished - Apr 4 2013


  • Complexity theory
  • Dynamics of reputation
  • Social sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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