Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
‘Additive’ goods and services are defined as those that improve with use. They are not naturally rival, or even non-rival, but are “anti-rival.” Information is an example. Information can be made excludable through the use of patents and copyrights, however this does not necessarily lead to socially optimal production and allocation. A more flexible, open access, and decentralized process for the production and allocation of information could improve social welfare. This dissertation describes the challenges and problems with privatizing and restricting access to information and reviews alternative mechanisms for its allocation. Two particular issues at opposite ends of the access spectrum are: (1) strict barriers to private industry databases and (2) quality perception and control of open access information. The first chapter discusses our current system of producing and distributing information and potential ways to stimulate the transition to a new regime. This paper concludes that some of the ideas to seed such a transition include: (1) redefining wellbeing metrics; (2) ensuring the wellbeing of populations during the transition; (3) reducing complexity and increase resilience within institutions; (4) expanding the “commons sector”; and (4) using the internet to remove communication barriers and improve democracy. The second chapter discusses our current system of determining which information to produce, which resources to allocate towards the production of information, and how to distribute that information once produced. The paper concludes that alternative incentive methods, both inside and outside of the market, of producing information and new methods for distributing it to those that can make best use of it, would improve social welfare. These include: (1) prizes; (2) non-monetary incentives; (3) capping salaries; (4) research consortium; and (5) publicly funded research. Chapter 3 explores the difficulty in determining basic energy information under the current proprietary information system using an analysis of the energy return on investment (EROI) of wind energy. It utilizes a meta-analysis of the energy return on investment (EROI) to obtain basic information about the energy inputs and outputs necessary for the manufacturing, installing, operating, and decommissioning of wind turbines. This analysis shows an average EROI for all studies (operational and conceptual) of 25.2 (n=114; std. dev.=22.3). It concludes that making information proprietary severely limits the accuracy of EROI estimates and increases the difficulty of making the best social choices. Chapter 4 explores the perceived credibility of web-based information using an experiment with Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia, and the Encyclopedia of Earth. Compared to Encyclopedia Britannica, both Encyclopedia of Earth and Wikipedia were found to provide a statistically negative perception of credibility. The other factors analyzed (presence or absence of an author, references, a biased sponsor, or an award) contribute to “brand equity” a composite characteristic that takes significant time to develop. The relatively new Encyclopedia of Earth has not yet developed enough brand recognition to affect credibility one-way or the other, but its positive characteristics should help build the brand and credibility over time.
Kubiszewski, Ida, "Searching for the Sweet Spot: Managing Information as a Good that Improves with Use" (2010). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 129.