Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University


Applying Market Mechanisms to Facilitate Interpersonal Information Exchange

Gary Hsieh

August 2010

Ph.D. Thesis


Keywords: Information exchange, information communication, computer-mediated communication, question and answer (Q&A), market mechanisms, incentives, motivation, social relationship theory, information overload, spam, interruption, human attention.

Requesting and sharing information through computer-mediated technology is an integral part of our lives in this information age. However, when deciding whether or not and how to engage in information exchanges, parties involved often have different needs and constraints. In addition, they are often unaware of each others' needs and constraints. Such asymmetry in motivation and information leads to suboptimal allocation of attention and time and contributes to the growing problems of information overload, costly interruptions and missed opportunities. A potential solution is to employ market mechanisms to support information exchange. Markets are institutions that allow individuals to trade goods and services efficiently. Applying markets to information exchange, askers can use pricing to signal the importance of the information exchange and compensate the answerers for their time. Answerers can use pricing mechanisms to filter incoming requests, reducing interruption costs and information overload.

This dissertation studies the strengths and weaknesses of using economic markets for interpersonal information exchange. Are there costs in incorporating markets into our everyday information exchanges? How do we design these markets to maximize the benefits of market forces while minimizing the costs? Part 1 of the dissertation examines whether or not economic markets can indeed improve welfare for people involved. Part 2 studies the use of markets for question and answer (Q&A) services, a specific, but a popular type of interpersonal information exchange. Part 3 elucidates how using economic markets for information exchange may affect interpersonal relationships.

118 pages

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