Experiments for Web Science: Examining the Effect of the Internet on Collective Action

Mar 2009

Margetts, H., John, P., Escher, T., & Reissfelder, S. (2009) Experiments for Web Science: Examining the Effect of the Internet on Collective Action. 1st Web Science Conference, Athens, 18-20 March.

The shift of much of political life on to the Internet and WWW has implications for understanding of political behaviour, particularly people's willingness to undertake collective action and organise around public goods. Web-based experiments are an under-used methodology to identify and investigate these Internet effects. This paper reports on two such experiments, one in the laboratory and the other in the field, which explored how one particular characteristic of the Internet---the ability to feed real-time information about the behaviour of others back to an individual user---can affect people’s incentives to act collectively. The results suggest that information about high numbers of other participants positively affect an individual’s willingness to participate, while information about low numbers of other participants can have a negative effect, suggesting that a revision of the 'logic' of collective action may be necessary for the Internet age.

This paper may be viewed online at:


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