Nobel and Oscar: the candidates and the winners

Nobel prize

One important signifier of reputation is the receipt of a prominent award or honor in one’s discipline or community. It is difficult to deny that Nobel prize can be identified with being ranked as #1. The Nobel prize takes its name from Alfred Nobel, a chemist, inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, and author who invented dynamite and held 355 patents during his lifetime. In his will, Alfred Nobel set aside his fortune to fund prizes for outstanding achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and humanitarian or peace-related work. Since 1901, the Royal Swedish Academy for Sciences, the Karolinska Instituet, the Swedish Academy, and a committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament have been responsible for awarding the Nobel prizes, and in 1968, the Sveriges Riksbank established a prize in economic sciences that is awarded alongside the Nobel prizes. (There is a recurring gossip about the reason why there is no Nobel prize in mathematics. Different versions of the rumor claim that it is due to an eventual rivalry over a woman between Magnus Gösta Mittag-Leffle, the leading Swedish mathematician and Nobel. The rumor seems to be unjustified 29. To date, 590 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 935 Nobel laureates.

The nomination and selection process The nomination and selection process for Nobel laureates takes over a year and involves dozens of reviews and expert consultations to determine the winner(s) in each prize category. In all categories but the Nobel Peace Prize, nominations are accepted by invitation only, and nomination forms are sent out in September of the year preceding the awarding of the Prize. Invitations for nominations are typically sent to selected professors at universities and to former Laureates, who have until January 31 of the following year to submit their nominations. The process typically generates about 250􀀀350 unique nominees, and consultation with experts proceeds for several months to assess the worthiness of each candidate. Over the summer, the Nobel Committee writes a report to be submitted in September to the institution responsible for awarding the particular Nobel Prize, and in October a winner is selected through majority vote and announced. Prizes are then awarded in December.

Literature prize: from betting to scandal In the last fifteen years or so, the big sports betting company, Ladbrokes has begun taking bets to the literature prizes in their on-line menu. So you can bet, who will win the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Only in literature, probably the others attract much less public attention.) Bookmakers at betting companies set fixed odds on all horses in a specific race, or on the result of soccer games. Betting became a big industry and even bigger business. The duty of a Nobel Prize bookmaker is particularly challenging. If you bet for sports events, you have a lot of data about past achievements, actual injuries, etc. Predictions based on finding patterns in data are not terribly bad. For the prize in literature, I am note sure. You should have a behavioral model of the committee. Betting for the Nobel prize somehow reflect people’s demand, and we could not exclude, that the selection committee does not totally neglect the public opinion. Well, we have a long list of unlikely non-winners (Tolstoy, Chekhov, Proust, Kafka, Virginia Woolf, Joyce, Nabokov).

In 2017 Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded for his ”novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” Margaret
Atwood, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and Haruki Murakami had better odds, still Ishiguro’s win was approved by the community.
Is there any collusion between the selection and the betting process? I would have liked to bet that it isn’t. The committee receives annually about two hundred nominations from literary nobilities. Maybe ten-fifteen percent are first-time nominees. I might be wrong, that I believe that first-time nominees had initially a better chance than now. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941; NP: 1913), Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951; NP:1930, Pearl Buck (1892-1973; NP:1938, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970; NP:1950) and William Faulkner (1897-1962; NP:1949) were awarded Nobel Prize in Literature after being nominated in one year only. The ugly sex and leakage scandal 30, which led to the cancellation of the award in 2018 might have a cataclysmic consequences
for the Nobel prize in literature. We will see.

The illusion and manipulation of objectivity: Is there any gender bias? As noted above, 935 individuals have received Nobel Prizes since the Prize’s inception in 1901. Yet only 51 women have received the Prize (Marie Curie won twice), meaning that less than 6% of Nobel Prize winners were or are women. In the sciences, the chemist and science writer Magdolna Hargittai notes, that figure is even smaller, with just 19 women receiving the prize in physics, chemistry, or medicine or physiology since its inception. This abysmally low number has led some to suggest that the Nobel Prize exhibits a gender bias against female scientists. Certainly, there have been female scientists that have been overlooked for Nobel Prizes during the nomination and selection process, but it may be the case that the relatively low number of women who have been awarded the Nobel Prize is attributable more to implicit bias than explicit discrimination. Stereotypes discouraging women from pursuing education and careers in STEM fields have helped the number of women receiving doctoral degrees in physics, chemistry, and medicine relatively low in comparison to their male counterparts, and although these numbers are increasing, they remain lower than population statistics would suggest. Take physics as an example: according to the American Institute of Physics, in 1975 women earned just 5% of PhDs in physics, and they still earn only 18% of PhDs in physics. If less than one in five physics PhDs is awarded to a woman, the odds of being awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics has shrunk significantly for a woman. Even after PhDs are awarded, implicit bias manifests itself in the barriers that women face to hiring and publication, as studies show that women are more likely to be judged on superficial qualities like appearance and personal information than the quality of their scholarship. In terms of publication, women are less likely to be cited than men and their research is more likely to be attributed to men, and they are underrepresented in journal editorships. Both of these factors work against the likelihood that women will be invited to speak at conferences to present their findings or to be nominated for awards. Since the Nobel selection committees refuse to publish information about nominees until 50 years after the nomination has been submitted, it is difficult to assess the rate at which women are nominated for Nobel Prizes in STEM fields, but based on the state of gender representation in physics, chemistry, and medicine, there is a good chance that women are not being nominated at the same rate as men are. If we acknowledge the kinds of institutionalized biases that greet women at every step of their careers, it is less surprising that so few women have received Nobel Prizes in STEM fields. Although bias certainly exists, the nature of implicit bias is such that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint at which stage in a woman’s career her chances of receiving a Nobel Prize were diminished, and it may be the case that the bottleneck occurs well before names ever reach the Nobel Prize committees.

Ranking of artists

Péter Érdi: RANKING. The Unwritten Rules of the Social Game We All Play

Marek Claassen: Director of ArtFacts.Net

We introduced a quantitative method to measure how much an artist is embedded in the international art world. We start with long term relationships between artists and galleries or collections that represent them. These are very strong commitments that last very long. We count the number of countries and the number of collections and galleries. And then we look at solo and group shows. The more international artists a gallery or a museum has, the more its exhibitions value. Let’s say that we have an institution like Tate Modern where thousands of artists are collected. If you have a solo show there you get all the points from these artists and your rank will go up extremely. Biennials, group shows work like collections, their value is based on the artists whose works they show. So if there’s an Andy Warhol its value goes up a lot.

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Ranking of artists

Marek Claassen: Director of ArtFacts.Net

We introduced a quantitative method to measure how much an artist is embedded in the international art world. We start with long term relationships between artists and galleries or collections that represent them. These are very strong commitments that last very long. We count the number of countries and the number of collections and galleries. And then we look at solo and group shows. The more international artists a gallery or a museum has, the more its exhibitions value. Let’s say that we have an institution like Tate Modern where thousands of artists are collected. If you have a solo show there you get all the points from these artists and your rank will go up extremely. Biennials, group shows work like collections, their value is based on the artists whose works they show. So if there’s an Andy Warhol its value goes up a lot.

Top 100 Artists


Transition of the mechanism of reputation of painters: from Salon to Market

Salon, Exhibition of Rejected Art, and the emergence of Impressionism

Historically, the Académie des Beaux-Arts dominated French art. Academy controlled both the content and the style. Religious and historical themes and portraits were supported, landscape and still life were not really permitted, while precise brush strokes characterized the style. For centuries, showing at the Salon was a necessary condition for establishing an artist’s reputation and career in Paris.168. A success in the Salon implied the emergence of reputation, both in terms of prestigious jobs (as teaching positions at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and awards, as the Legion of Honor, created by Napoleon, and maintained by all French governments. The selection process was led by the Salon’s jury controlled by members of the Academy. As it happens always, selection committees attempts to conserve the status quo. We cannot blame them, it is due to human nature. The reputation of artists depended on the Institution. As Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) famously stated after the refusal of all the paintings he submitted to the Salon of 1847:

It is bias on the part of the gentlemen of the jury: they refuse all those who do not belong to their school, except for one or two, against whom they can no longer fight, such as MM. [monsieurs] Delacroix, Decamps, Diaz, but all those who are not as well known by the public are sent away without a word. That does no bother me in the least, from the point of view of their judgment, but to make a name for oneself one must exhibit, and, unfortunately, that is the only exhibition there is.

The Exhibition of Rejected Art ”Salon des Refusés”) was established in 1863, somewhat as a consolation price, and an alternative pathway to show paintings that have been rejected by the selection committee. This year is refereed as the birth of ”modern art” is 1863 – as Edouard Manet (1832-83) exhibited his – than infamous -painting Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe. (Please, don’t kill me: 1863 is also the year when the Football Association was founded in England. Football means soccer, of course. So, modern art and modern sport were born synchronously.) The breakthrough happened in 1874, when the first Impressionist exhibition was organized. Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot called themselves the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers. The paintings were modern, still lives and portraits as well as landscapes, by adopting small, thin, still visible brush strokes. After 1874 Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat and other major artists had a different career pathway, they no longer debuted at the Salon. There was a life outside the review of the Salon’s juries!

The emergence of market-driven reputation

Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) has had a reputation for discovering impressionists. As an anecdote tells ”One of his artists came in one day with a young French painter, introducing him and saying, ’This artist will surpass us all’ — and that artist was Claude Monet.”169. He made an innovative (which also means risky) business by buying a huge number of paintings of artists with low reputation. Duran-Ruel’s was also an early adopter of the single artist exhibition, called that time as ”one-man show”. He also established a journal to explain and support what later became not less, than modern art. He was not an art historian, but a businessman, a dealer. His instinct, however, led him to trust and invest to a totally new school of painters. Soon the impressionists had won initial reputations at their independent exhibitions, and Durand-Ruel bought between 1882 and 1884 a large numbers of paintings from Monet, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley. A new mechanism, the dealer-critic system produced a new social market, and gradually superseded the academic system. Art galleries emerged to became the forum for the modern art to meet its public. The slowly growing reputation of the Impressionists was not sufficient to ensure the artistic and financial success. Durand Ruel made another innovative step: he made the market from local to global, by organizing exhibition in addition to Paris in London, and in New York. In 1886, Durand Ruel produced an exhibition of 289 Impressionist paintings at the American Art Galleries in New York. The American public was fascinated by the paintings of Monet, Renoir and others. Many of the artworks sold became the core of impressionist collections in major American museums. The artistic and financial success obtained by the help of American collectors allowed Durand-Ruel to get out to debt, The reputations of the Impressionists, the first real modernists, quickly became established in the advanced art world. In the early twentieth century the number of ”for profit” art galleries grew large enough to create a genuinely competitive market. The transition from the monopoly of Academy to a market-oriented contemporary art was completed.

Struggle for reputation

7.1 Reputation
7.1.1 From “I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation” to reputation

It is not necessarily compulsory to start this chapter with a story about the role of reputation in popular culture. However, I let myself be seduced by recent news, and I wrote a preliminary draft about Taylor Swift’s on-going “Reputation” tours. As you may know from the introduction of this book, Natalie Thompson is my copy-editor, and she enthusiastically comments when she disagrees with me. In reading my draft, she wrote: “I think in it’s current formulation it is a bit awkward, but there might be a way to restructure it.” Here is the result:
The importance of reputation in popular culture has been vastly expanded by the
Internet and our ability to broadcast information about our lives on social media platforms to both friends and strangers. We carefully curate the best possible images of ourselves, but we may also be subject to scrutiny and cannot control what others say about us, which may become more important than what we say about ourselves.

The recent popularity of Taylor Swift’s studio album Reputation is a perfect microcosmof both the importance and uncontrollability of our reputations in a digital age. Born out of a spat between the pop star and rapper Kanye West, Reputation addresses the constant negativity that Swift faced from individuals on-line and the ensuing damage to her reputation and attempts to demonstrate that reputations can be falsified and misleading. With lines like, “My reputation’s never been worse, so you must like me for me” and “Ooh, you and me, we got big reputations, and you heard about me. Ooh, I got some big enemies (yeah),” Swift speaks to the distinction between public and private personas that everyone navigates on a daily basis. While Swift’s reputation
as an artist defines her celebrity and is, as a result, fundamentally distinct from the reputations of most individuals, her desire to call attention to the ways in which reputations can be misleading or manipulated, especially on-line, provides a telling example of the difficulties of navigating the subjectivity/objectivity dilemma that we have repeatedly encountered in this text. Swift has also garnered attention in political headlines as the Congressional midterms approach with stories like: Conservatives are turning on Taylor Swift after she endorsed Democrats, and here is a quantified effect: Trump “likes Taylor Swift 25% less” after political post.

When I asked my youngster family friend and former coworker, Judit Szente (who just got a PhD in Climate and Space Science at University of Michigan) about the role of the word “reputation” in these songs, she wrote me back that she prefers Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation from 1981:
I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation
You’re living in the past it’s a new generation
A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s
What I’m gonna do … 149
While I was somewhat surprised that the concept or reputation plays such an important role in the rock music, it is less surprising that Gloria Origgi, an Italian philosopher working in Paris, raises and answers the questions: What does it mean to have a good reputation? What do we lose when we lose a reputation?150. Our character and our actions shape our reputation, and reputation is a form of currency. Our reputation determines whether or not other people invest in us, buy from us, or give us an award.

Who determines our reputation?

How many friends do you have? Despite what Facebook might suggest, we cannot have a thousand friends. We cannot even have a thousand close acquaintances. The British anthropologist Robin Dunbar has estimated the number of persons with whom we can form stable social relationship: 150, which more precisely means that between hundred and two hundred. When I began my and searched my email inbox to decide whom I could easily ask to follow my website, I was shocked. The number was 149 (well, only sixty of them kindly pushed the follow button). They are the people who know some of my characteristic features and my actions, so my reputation is based on their perception of my activities. But in a broader sense, my reputation is the collective opinion of everybody else, except myself.  As most people know, it takes time to build a reputation. We all know that a single moment is sufficient to destroy a good reputation. As a quote attributed to Warren Buffett says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Unfortunately, even malicious gossip is sufficient to smash a reputation. Having a good reputation among friends might help, as they may defend you even without your knowing.
The traditional mechanism for constructing a reputation is hierarchical. First, your reputation emerges in the layer of people closest to you, so among your friends, and propagates through layers of more distant acquaintances to the friends of your friends of your friends, etc. Modern media have produced other mechanisms and enabled the emergence of overnight popularity. One of my recent favorite examples of overnight popularity is Baddie Winkle, a grandma who conquered the hearts of the Internet when her great-granddaughter posted her photo on Instagram. She now has millions of followers.151

Of course, being an overnight sensation does not necessarily imply (positive) reputation. Reputation is social information about the value of a person and their activities. To conduct business, for example, people rely on having a good reputation to communicate their trustworthiness to their clients. It is not enough to be honest; you must also be seen as honest in the eyes of the others. (I don’t want to adopt the cynical perspective by suggesting that because you need to be seen as honest, it is not necessary to be honest).