Experimenting with Governance in Virtual Worlds

Culture is deep inside us, in our ability to speak, in our sense of belonging, in our values. The capacity of our brain to adapt to and integrate culture is what makes us human: from birth, our mind is set to absorb concepts, technologies and social conventions that accumulated over thousands of generations. Massive online experiments now allow us to study cultural evolution experimentally: we can place people in virtual worlds and observe how social structure emerges, as people behavior changes a virtual world, which in turn changes collective behaviors. We are currently working on two projects: First, we examine how music, created by participants, can spread in virtual worlds with different types of constraints on creating and sharing it. Second, we examine how governance structures emerge in virtual worlds where participants create, share and rate resources and public goods.


Dalton Conley (Princeton University), Seth Frey (UC Davis)