Dynamics of Ranking Processes in Complex Systems
The world is addicted to ranking: everything, from the reputation of scientists, journals, and universities to purchasing decisions is driven by measured or perceived differences between them. Here, we analyze empirical data capturing real time ranking in a number of systems, helping to identify the universal characteristics of ranking dynamics. We develop a continuum theory that not only predicts the stability of the ranking process, but shows that a noise-induced phase transition is at the heart of the observed differences in ranking regimes. The key parameters of the continuum theory can be explicitly measured from data, allowing us to predict and experimentally document the existence of three phases that govern ranking stability.