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Changing Commons: Diversity, Dynamics, and Design in the Elementary Landscape of 2x2 Games

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Bruns, Bryan
Conference: Commoners and the Changing Commons: Livelihoods, Environmental Security, and Shared Knowledge, the Fourteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Mt. Fuji, Japan
Conf. Date: June 3-7
Date: 2013
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8895
Sector: Theory
Subject(s): game theory
institutional design
Abstract: "Game theory concepts of cooperation and conflict in strategic interactions underlie much thinking about how people act in commons, often modeled in terms of a few fundamental social dilemmas. Payoff patterns from Prisoners Dilemma, Chicken, and the rest of the symmetric 2x2 games combine to form an array of asymmetric games, revealing the diversity of possible incentive structures in even the simplest social situations. Changes in payoffs can switch the ranking of outcomes, transforming one game into another, pathways through which the potential for cooperation and conflict in commons may change. The Robinson-Goforth topology of 2x2 games shows how games are linked by swaps in adjoining payoffs, mapping the diversity of social situations and visualizing how they might be transformed, moving dynamically within a design space. In this elementary landscape of cooperation and conflict, simpler games with ties lie between the strict ordinal games with four differently ranked payoffs, as do normalized versions of all 2x2 games with ratio or real value payoffs. This diversity of models enriches the tools for understanding institutional diversity and dynamics in collective action, including situations such as Jekyll-Hyde Type games, the High Dilemma game between Prisoners Dilemma and Stag Hunt, and the archetypal Avatamsaka game of interdependence. Deliberate crafting of rules to regulate boundaries, resource use, cost-sharing, monitoring, and sanctions, can shift expected payoffs, changing the incentive structures faced by commoners managing shared resources, such as farmers governing the mobile flows and physical infrastructure of irrigation systems. The diversity of 2x2 games and their elegant array of relationships offer insights into how incentive structures in commons may change and may be changed."

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