*Published Paper*

**Inserted:** 2 jan 2020

**Last Updated:** 9 jan 2023

**Journal:** Transform. Groups

**Volume:** 27

**Number:** 4

**Pages:** 1337-1392

**Year:** 2022

**Doi:** https://doi.org/10.1007/s00031-020-09630-z

**Abstract:**

As for the theory of maximal representations, we introduce the volume of a Zimmer's cocycle $\Gamma \times X \rightarrow \mbox{PO}^\circ(n, 1)$, where $\Gamma$ is a torsion-free (non-)uniform lattice in $\mbox{PO}^\circ(n, 1)$, with $n \geq 3$, and $X$ is a suitable standard Borel probability $\Gamma$-space. Our numerical invariant extends the volume of representations for (non-)uniform lattices to measurable cocycles and in the uniform setting it agrees with the generalized version of the Euler number of self-couplings. We prove that our volume of cocycles satisfies a Milnor-Wood type inequality in terms of the volume of the manifold $\Gamma \backslash \mathbb{H}^n$. This invariant can be interpreted as a suitable multiplicative constant between bounded cohomology classes. This allows us to characterize maximal cocycles for being cohomologous to the cocycle induced by the standard lattice embedding via a measurable map $X \rightarrow \mbox{PO}(n, 1)$ with essentially constant sign. As a by-product of our rigidity result for the volume of cocycles, we give a new proof of the mapping degree theorem. This allows us to provide a complete characterization of maps homotopic to local isometries between closed hyperbolic manifolds in terms of maximal cocycles. In dimension $n = 2$, we introduce the notion of Euler number of measurable cocycles associated to closed surface groups. It extends the classic Euler number of representations and it agrees with the generalized version of the Euler number of self-couplings up to a multiplicative constant. We show a Milnor-Wood type inequality whose upper bound is given by the modulus of the Euler characteristic. This gives an alternative proof of the same result for the generalized version of the Euler number of self-couplings. Finally, we characterize maximal cocycles as those which are cohomologous to the one induced by a hyperbolization.