The Collective Communication of Social Choice Messages

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Wickenden, Thomas Howard

The research problem addressed in this dissertation is to develop a theory of collective communication. Collective communication is defined as social interaction mediated through messages whose production involves a collectivity. The focus of analysis is on social choice messages, messages that prescribe or proscribe the behavior of members of that collectivity. The theory developed here is used to describe the social choice messages necessary to realize common interests in specific economic environments and the collective communication systems necessary to communicate those messages in those environments. The theory of collective communication is developed in four steps. First, a mathematical theory of collective communication is derived from the unification of game theory and information theory. Building upon the work of von Neumann and Morgenstern, Shannon, Ashby and Conant, philosophical foundations are established and nineteen theorems are derived to predict the transmission of information in a basic game and in a metagame whose outcomes describe constraints to be imposed upon strategic behavior in the basic game. Second, this mathematical theory is formally interpreted as a social theory of collective communication. Third, these theorems are applied to a variety of political and social problems, including those of common property resource management, market failure, the provision of public goods, collective action and coordinated action. Finally, the empirical validity of this theory is tested against research on the development of property rights. The set of regulations and statutes governing mining activity in Nevada between 1858 and 1895 is studied using the techniques of content analysis and multiple linear regression analysis. The predicted relationship between the precision of mining law and the value of mine output is found to be strong, with R squares as high as 0.82347. The research instrument is determined to be reliable and the findings to be statistically significant at the 0.01 level. The evidence presented here is limited but sufficient to motivate the continued development of a unified theory of information and games and the use of mathematical modeling to study salient social problems in the collective communication of social choice messages.

Klaus Krippendorff
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