What is Incentive-Centered Design (ICD)?

ICD is the science of designing systems or institutions that align participants’ (individual) incentives with overall system (social) goals. Incentive-centered design is fundamental for modern information systems because performance of distributed and collaborative systems depends critically on the strategic choices users make when interacting with the system and with each other, yet mismatch between individual interests and system goals is pervasive. Careful attention to individual incentives can lead to vast improvements in systems and institutions. This approach necessarily builds equally on the social sciences that address motivated human behavior, cognition and group processes, and on the engineering sciences that address computation and communications system design. We take a broad view of individual motivations for strategic behavior, drawing on economic, psychological, and sociological theories, and combine these with the design and engineering sciences of artificial intelligence, software, operations research and networking.
We apply ICD to

  • user-contributed content
  • reputation systems
  • public goods provision
  • recommender systems
  • online auction design
  • prediction markets
  • matching systems
  • social computing

ICD in various forms it is gaining interest from many overlapping research communities. Nevertheless, as a coherent field ICD is still quite young, and its potential as a multidisciplinary foundation for research on information system problems has not yet fully developed.


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