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Linking as voting: how the Condorcet jury theorem in political science is relevant to webometrics


  • George Masterton

    (Lund University)

  • Erik J. Olsson

    () (Lund University)

  • Staffan Angere

    (Lund University)


Abstract A webmaster’s decision to link to a webpage can be interpreted as a “vote” for that webpage. But how far does the parallel between linking and voting extend? In this paper, we prove several “linking theorems” showing that link-based ranking tracks importance on the web in the limit as the number of webpages grows, given independence and minimal linking competence. The theorems are similar in spirit to the voting, or jury, theorem famously attributed to the 18th century mathematician Nicolas de Condorcet. We argue that the linking theorems provide a fundamental epistemological justification for link-based ranking on the web, analogous to the justification that Condorcet’s theorems bestow on majority voting as a basic democratic procedure. The analogy extends to the practical limitations facing both kinds of result, in particular due to limited voting/linking independence. However, we argue, referring to the theoretical developments inspired by the jury theorem, that some of the pessimism expressed in the webometrics literature regarding the possibility of a “theory of linking” may be unjustified. The present study connects the two academic disciplines of webometrics in information science and epistemic democracy in political science by showing how they share a common structure. As such, it opens up new possibilities for theoretical cross-fertilization and interdisciplinary transference of concepts and results. In particular, we show how the relatively young field of webometrics can benefit from the extensive and sophisticated literature on the Condorcet jury theorem.

Suggested Citation

  • George Masterton & Erik J. Olsson & Staffan Angere, 2016. "Linking as voting: how the Condorcet jury theorem in political science is relevant to webometrics," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 106(3), pages 945-966, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:scient:v:106:y:2016:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-016-1837-1
    DOI: 10.1007/s11192-016-1837-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:83:y:1989:i:04:p:1317-1340_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ladha, Krishna K., 1995. "Information pooling through majority-rule voting: Condorcet's jury theorem with correlated votes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 353-372, May.
    3. Spiekermann, Kai & Goodin, Robert E., 2012. "Courts of Many Minds," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(03), pages 555-571, July.
    4. Dietrich, Franz & Spiekermann, Kai, 2013. "Epistemic Democracy With Defensible Premises," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(01), pages 87-120, March.
    5. Dietrich, Franz, 2008. "The Premises of Condorcet's Jury Theorem Are Not Simultaneously Justified," Research Memorandum 012, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
    6. Lloyd Shapley & Bernard Grofman, 1984. "Optimizing group judgmental accuracy in the presence of interdependencies," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 43(3), pages 329-343, January.
    7. Michael Schweinberger & Mark S. Handcock, 2015. "Local dependence in random graph models: characterization, properties and statistical inference," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 77(3), pages 647-676, June.
    8. Serguei Kaniovski, 2010. "Aggregation of correlated votes and Condorcet’s Jury Theorem," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 69(3), pages 453-468, September.
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