Project Details


Many of the challenges facing contemporary society can be categorized as common-pool resource problems, which are typically manifested by overuse and overharvesting such as deforestation, overfishing, information overload, and pollution. This field has derived many insights from case study analysis and controlled behavioral experiments. Nevertheless, three fundamental puzzles still dominate this area of research, namely why is communication so effective to stimulate cooperative outcomes; how do group size impact the ability to cooperate; and how do groups cope with uncertainty and disturbances.
In order to address those puzzles, we need to scale up the way we do controlled experiments. We built on a proven engaging card game, the Port of Mars, in which a group of players need to make investment decisions about the shared infrastructure and about actions that benefit themselves. The game is based on commons dilemmas and is fun to play. In developing a digital version of the game, we will be able to run large scale controlled experiments. The game allows for in-game chat communication and includes stochastic events that enable us to address uncertainty.
In order to recruit a large number of participants, we team up with the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University and hold each semester a Mars Madness tournament in which participants will have the opportunity to become the champion of Port of Mars. Initially those participants are students, but in the third year of the project, the tournament is open to the general public.
Data collected during the tournaments will be used to train a machine-learning algorithms to classify communication data into functional categories which help us to study how communication content relate to group performance. In the various tournaments we vary the knowledge about events and thresholds events may happen in order to test the impact of uncertainty on collective action. Furthermore, we vary group size between 5 and 50 players.
We will also test whether participation in the Port of Mars impacts the understanding of concepts of commons dilemmas and solutions to overcome the tragedy of the commons. The resulting experimental platform aims not only to be research platform for commons but also to be an educational environment addressing questions in social science and STEM education.
Effective start/end date1/1/2112/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $488,759.00


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