OxLab Experiments

OxLab is an experimental laboratory for the social sciences, set up by Nir Vulkan (SBS) and Helen Margetts (OII) in 2006 with some funding from the University of Oxford Fell Fund. We have run a range of laboratory and field experiments from OxLab, from both economics and political science perspectives. Experiments include investigation into the effect of different information environments on collective action; the impact of different types of e-government provision on citizens' information seeking behaviour and deadline effects in auction design. Some of the outputs of the lab are available below.

The massive growth in Internet-mediated interactions between societies, governments and commercial organisations of all kinds creates a need for innovative methods to research online activity. Laboratory-based experiments where subjects are brought in and incentivized (via cash payments) to participate in games or information-seeking tasks on networked computers are an excellent way to develop such methodologies. Such laboratories have been used by experimental economists for some time, but the great expansion in online social and commercial activity means that as well as being more central to Economics research they have growing utility across other academic disciplines, particularly sociology, computer science and political science.

The lab is directed by Nir Vulkan (SBS) and Helen Margetts (OII) and managed by Lucy Bartlette (SBS), and Scott Hale (OII). Questions regarding OxLab should be directed to oxlab@oii.ox.ac.uk.

OxLab Outputs

Can the internet overcome the logic of collective action? An experiment of the impact of social pressure on political participation

This paper investigates the impact of the internet upon individual contributions to collective action. It examines how political participation may be stimulated by one particular characteristic of the internet: its ability to provide real-time feedback information on the participation of others in a political action.

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

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.

Participation in Internet-mediated Interactions

This UCL-based project forms part of the Communications Research Network
(CRN), a Knowledge Integration Community funded by the Cambridge-MIT
and co-funded by British Telecom. It brings together researchers from Cambridge University, MIT and University College
London – economists, public policy experts, management analysts, engineers and computer scientists – who together provide a uniquely

Understanding Governments and Citizens On-line: Learning from E-commerce

Economists studying commercial activity on-line argue that the most significant difference between on-line and off-line commerce is the ability of firms to ‘know who your customers are and treat them differently’ (Vulkan 2006), customizing prices and offerings. This difference comes from the huge amount of data generated by on-line transactions, in terms of historical records, usage statistics and real-time data. Yet in political life, governmental organizations and political parties have been far slower to use such data to improve their service offerings and devise innovative policy interventions, such as differential pricing and personalized information provision.

Government on the Internet: Progress in delivering information and services online

logo-National Audit Office

A new report on the state of UK government on the internet has been published by the UK National Audit Office on 13 July 2007, based on research by a team from the Oxford Internet Institute
(University of Oxford) and the LSE Public Policy Group (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Governing from the Centre? Comparing the Nodality of Digital Governments

by Tobias Escher (UCL School of Public Policy), Helen Margetts (UCL and Oxford Internet Institute),
Ingemar J. Cox (UCL Computer Science) and Vaclav Petricek (UCL Computer Science)

This paper has been presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Philadelphia (31. August - 4. September 2006).