Title:Incentives in Online Contribution: A game-theoretic framework
Speaker: Arpita Ghosh (School of Computing and Information Science, Cornell University)
Date: Tuesday, May 5th
Time: 12-1pm
Room: NSH 3305

User contribution---whether explicit, as in online crowdsourcing and user-generated content systems, or implicit, via utilization of user data---is central to the Web. The efficacy of systems based on user contribution, however, hinges on users actually participating and behaving as intended by the designer. How does one design various aspects of online contribution platforms---algorithms, reward allocation mechanisms, interfaces---to elicit `good’ outcomes, given that the potential participants in these systems are economic agents with their own costs and benefits to contribution? In this talk, we describe a game-theoretic framework for incentive design for online contribution. To illustrate this framework, we investigate widely-used reward mechanisms in user-generated content and crowdsourcing platforms on the Web---such as badges and leaderboards---in the context of equilibrium outcomes that arise when potential users derive benefit from these social-psychological rewards but incur a cost to contribution. Motivated by a growing literature suggesting that user behavior in online environments might deviate from standard economic models, we explore the idea of `behavioral’ design---theoretical analysis with abstract models based on `real’ behavior---in the context of two problems: the optimal design of contests, widely used in crowdsourcing and user-generated content platforms, and the optimal structure of contracts for crowdwork. Our analysis of equilibrium outcomes in these environments translates to design guidelines in the presence of strategic behavior, and illustrates the idea that formal analysis can inform wide-ranging aspects of the design of online environments for user contribution.

Arpita Ghosh is an Associate Professor of Information Science in the School of Computing and Information Science at Cornell University. She received her B.Tech from IIT Bombay in 2001, and her PhD from Stanford in 2006. Prior to joining Cornell, she spent 6 years (2006-2012) in the Microeconomics and Social Sciences group at Yahoo! Research.