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Tipping Collective Action in Social Networks

Many of the challenges facing contemporary society, such as emission reductions or vaccination for infectious diseases, are collective action problems. To address these challenges, new approaches are needed to understand, stimulate and sustain collective action in large heterogeneous populations. To promote cooperative behavior at large scales, this project will develop computational tools to facilitate the context for cooperation - homogeneity, effective communication - observed in smaller scale case studies and field experiments. The investigators will test new ways to increase collective action using mobile applications and social media.

The project will use controlled decision-making experiments to test whether contributions to collective action can be increased by providing the right messages to the right people, such that cooperative behavior can cascade through a social network. Empirical research has shown that individuals are more likely to participate in collective action if they expect others like them to participate. Experiments will be performed in online social networks of students at Arizona State University to test the proposed approach to actualizing collective action within the university community. Data from the experiments will be used to develop mathematical models of collective action in social networks.

Broader impacts: The research will lead to new theoretical frameworks for understanding collective action and provide concrete tools to apply these insights. Insights about what kind of feedback to whom is most effective for increasing collective action may make social media a potential effective policy tool for organizations. Potentially, the project will have societal impact by promoting collective action in important areas such as healthcare, voter participation, and energy conservation.

Project Period 2012-2015

Marco Janssen
Principal investigator
Arizona State University, School of Sustainability
Hari Sundaram
Co-Principal investigators
University of Illinois, Computer Science/Advertising
Allen Lee
Arizona State University, Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment
Rolee Sinha
PhD Students
Shelby Manney
PhD Students
Arizona State University, School of Human Evolution and Social Change