Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

Scholarly Communication's Mess: Can Economic Analysis Help?

Academic journal article LIBRES: Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal

Scholarly Communication's Mess: Can Economic Analysis Help?

Article excerpt


This paper constitutes a trial of a game- and decision-theory based approach that is intended to examine elements of the complexities of scholarly communication as an economic endeavor. Both individual and institutional kinds of games are analyzed in order to determine what factors would affect the real economic use of game and decision theories. There are interrlationships between the two kinds that add complexity to any possible application. Further, this analysis includes ideal and practical factors that affect real economic application. As is shown here, there are serious challenges to application of the theories, but also important indicators for the furtherance of individual and institutional interests by means of negotiation.

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The ground-breaking work of Nobel Prize winner John Nash was done in the new (at the time) field of game theory. Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1944) are usually credited with "inventing" game theory some years before Nash's prize-winning work. Nash derived a conception of equilibrium that can occur when players are presented with predicaments in which they can communicate and cooperate, and when they are rational and knowledgeable about the game's situation. Each player can choose cooperation or noncooperation in the playing of the game. At times, the uncooperative players tend to reach a stalemate where neither benefits.

The kind of game illustrated by the Prisoner's Dilemma assumes rationality on the parts of the players and is indicative of classic game theory. The players will make their choices based on the most likely benefits. A desired outcome in classic game theory is, as Nash (1950) posited, equilibrium. Nash's explanation is mathematically complex; it required economists quite a bit of time to incorporate it into their theories. Herbert Gintis (2009) states the Nash equilibrium clearly: "in a two-player game [there] is a pair of strategies, each of which is a best response to the other; that is, each gives the player using it the highest possible payoff, given the other player's strategy" (34). In a complex game, though, there may be many possible ways to reach equilibrium, in part because each additional player adds several possible outcomes. When economists tend to apply game theory they are looking to locate solutions to the games, and so utilities feature prominently. The players are seeking to gain optimal utility by playing the game. Utilitarianism is a problematic philosophical stance and, as Robert Sugden (2001) suggests, the utility measure introduces a conceptual and practical difficulty into the theory because it can be evaluated in a number of ways, even within one game. Another difficulty, also identified by Sugden (2001) arises; classic game theory was designed as a conceptual, rather than an empirical, framework. A challenge presented by the theory is its fundamental applicability.

The examination presented in this paper will explore scholarly communication as a kind of game, including the features of negotiation, bargaining, and cooperation. Utility is not ignored in this analysis, but more attention is paid to justice and effectiveness than to efficiency. The examination is framed as a potential analytical tool for the examination of the complex economic and human system of scholarly communication. The related tool of decision theory (about which Binmore and other game theorists have written) will also be explored. Since the game aspect of this kind of communication involves a mix of individual and institutional players, both types of players will be included will be addressed and, in particular, the question of what characterizes relationships at this time will be studied. In particular, the real and practical elements of scholarly communication will be placed at the center of this study, so that hypothetical applications can be transcended in an effort to seek solutions to the economic dilemma of communication. …

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