Game theory, Hobbes’ Leviathan, and the culture of Wikia

There’s a course in the lineup at Quinnipiac University, an elective, about Game Design. It’s something that certainly caught my eye, but I found out that it hasn’t been taught since there’s no faculty currently willing?/able? to teach it.  David Maccarella talked briefly about Game Theory, a field of mathematical, economical, political, and apparently communications philosophy and applied math which revolutionized the world.  Nash, the real life man behind Russell Crowe’s character in ‘A Beautiful Mind’ provided the math which made it work and won a Nobel prize for it.

In passing time at work I began to start looking up some of the communications topics I’ve found while perusing faculty pages for various PhD programs. After all, if the research of the faculty will determine where I want to apply for possible doctoral studies, then I’m going to have to round out my education by doing preliminary research into just what those fields are.  And one of the fields which gets a number of significant hits from various faculty seems to be Game Theory.

Lo and behold

Last semester in ICM501 I found myself drawn to the assigned chapters from Wikinomics dealing with collaborative efforts and the new paradigm that the web promised. However, I came to the conclusion that I was just experiencing a flash of idealism which didn’t bear out in the marketplace, as the late 90’s Dot-bomb proved. Lots of idealism, short on resources and even shorter on results in several cases. Doonesbury cartoons suddenly started making sense, though. (Maybe that wasn’t the sample reading talking. Hrm. Analyze that.)

In any event, I started perusing web resources about Game Theory, and came upon this essay posted on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I’ve started skimming, and I ran into the preliminary discussion of Game Theory.  Fascinating in and of itself, but with -staggering- implications when combined into the study of Wikia. Actually, the fascinating part comes from Hobbes’ Leviathan, paraphrased on the same page.

Unnamed problems with making wikinomics work

My enthusiasm for Wikinomics and the collaborative revolution quickly cooled because I ran into the problem of how to stop folks from abusing the system or taking advantage of it. That was about as specific as I got into looking at why it wouldn’t work, but I’ve been bothered by my own summary dismissal of it. I was very much looking forward to next semester’s Media, Comm & Society course with Alex Halavais again, since he posted that the primary course text would be Wikinomics. I was looking forward to gaining some further insight into the underlying ways that collaborative environments could be tweaked to make them more viable and less susceptible to being derailed and taken advantage of.

Then I read the paraphrasing of Hobbes’ Leviathan.


I guess I know what I’m going to be reading before next semester now. Leviathan turns out to be a philosophical (and political) framework for understanding exactly this question of why collaborative and shared environments break down. Hobbes blamed it on the immoral/amoral, who are still around today. Hobbes extended the Leviathan to justify the tyranny of governments over the governed. Well, in the same article it turns out that Game Theory has a -lot- to do with that primary human reaction which underlies a lot of our fundamental policies and political maneuvering within society.

I don’t know where this trail will lead me, except to say that it seems to be running parallel to tracks I’ve already been following. Time to keep investigating and studying.


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