Institutional innovation in real-time dynamic spatial commons

Marcus Janssen, Elinor Ostrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Using a real-time, spatial, renewable resource environment, we observe participants in a set of experiments formulating informal rules during communication sessions over three decision rounds. In all three rounds, the resource is open access. Without communication, the resource is persistently and rapidly depleted. With face-to-face communication, we observe informal arrangements to divide up space and slow down the harvesting rate in various ways. We observe that experienced participants, who have participated in an earlier experiment where private property was used as one way of controlling harvesting in this renewable resource environment, are more effective in creating rules, although they mimic the private-property regime of their prior experience. Inexperienced participants need an extra round to reach the same level of resource use, but they craft diverse arrays of novel rule sets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-397
Number of pages27
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2008


  • Common-pool resources
  • Communication
  • Institutional innovation
  • Laboratory experiments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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