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The Power of Trumpery in Networks

Trumpery, as Cairo said it during the “Visual Trumpery” seminar, means worthless nonsense, something showy and deceitful at the same time ( While also acknowledging the danger of trumpery in data visualization field, I also want to introduce the danger of trumpery in the power of networks.

As how we are taught in the class that power in social groups comes from both individual attributes and from network position/structural properties, there are experiments that has approved that notion; how position in networks affect power (the existence of outside option), and how the characteristics of outside options affects a node’s power.

However, one important things that I would argue in the context of power and bargaining in networks is whether or not every node within a network know exactly the structure and the characteristics in the networks. In other words, the importance of having ‘common knowledge’ (the assumption that static game in game theory used) among all nodes in networks. Why? Because of two things, first, if one node, A, doesn’t know the true structure of the networks she’s entangled in, she could not perceive her own power and thus cannot bargain optimally. And this is where the trumpery comes into the picture: the opposite node, B, whom she bargains with, could bluff in order to increase their own power and gains benefit from that.

The simplest example would be:

We have the simplest graph, node A and B, and they have to split $10 between them. B could bluff and say that he has outside options and increase his power, thus getting more than $5 in the bargain, if A believes in his lies.

This is why ‘information’ is very important. A could avoid getting lied to by acquiring information about the structure of networks A-B has.

We could see many examples in real life where some people ‘bluff’ or faking their information to gain benefit from the networks. Corporate accounting scandals that happens quite often are some of that examples. They often manipulated their earnings, or their company’s worth to increase their power (in this case, is shown by stock price) in the eyes of investor or stockholders. AIG in 2005, HealthSouth in 2003, Satyam in 2009, etc.




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October 2017