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An online experiment on network effects, feedback, and inequality


Term:

Summer

Department:

15: Management

Faculty Supervisor:

Dean Eckles

Faculty email:

eckles@mit.edu

Apply by:

5/30/20

Contact:

Eaman Jahani: eaman@mit.edu

Project Description

The goal of this project is to show the existence and identify the extent of network feedback mechanisms that increase inter-group differences, thus contributing to network effects on inequality. In particular, we will analyze the repeated diffusion of a piece of information (originating from random sources according to a known distribution) access to which increases one’s utility. The repeated nature of this diffusion process could amplify individual or group differences in utility over time. For example, if a new employment opportunity is generated in each time period by different individuals and diffuses in the network, depending on network structure we might end up with a situation where employment becomes exclusive to one group. The research project involves development of the experiment as an online platform. Multiple players are laid out in a network and in each time period some of them randomly receive the approximate location of a gold mine on a grid. Players try to maximize their utility by collecting the gold over all rounds. The goldmine is a rivalrous good, as sharing it with others reduces one’s potential gain, but sharing it with others might still be a good idea for reciprocal sharing in the future. Our goal is to test various network structures and show that network structure has an important role in the final inter-group utility differences.

Pre-requisites

Prior experience in Javascript, HTML and CSS for developing online platforms would be ideal. Knowledge in React and other state of the art Javascript libraries is a plus. Data processing skills using scripting languages like R or Python would be good to have, but not necessary. If you are interested, please apply with your CV, transcript, and, if available, references to public repositories containing code samples. Work hours can be organized flexibly and are expected to be full-time during the summer.