General Information
Project Title
Information Growth & Diffusion Simulator
Project Developers:
Paul Laskowski,
Implemented Models:
Getting Involved:
Java source
dowload src (zipped)
Java bytecode
download jar (zipped)

The question of how to promote both growth and diffusion of information is both difficult and urgent. It critically affects who has access to what information and when. The nature of information's propagation, however, can depend on such a variety of factors that simulation becomes a valuable means of exploring and gaining insight. Propagation can depend on such factors as:

  • Incentives for information sharing.
  • Pattern variations in the shape of network connections.
  • Information sharing rates, learning rates, and decay rates.
  • Nonrivalry (the ability of two people to share the same information at the same time).
  • Agent strategies for gathering information.

These factors are represented to various degrees in the simulator you are about to explore. Various
audiences may find it useful.

Public Policy -- What policy levers can we manipulate to increase the total amount of information while
reducing "cyber-stratification?"

Economics -- Do agents' rational strategies increase endogenous information growth? When is growth
increasing or decreasing returns to scale?

Business -- Is sharing information advantageous or is it better to keep information secret? Are there
useful principles for knowledge management?

Teaching -- How can the tenets of information economics be easily explained given the complexity of the


A number of scenarios are currently provided, so are tools for creating your own scenarios. In fact, the source code is also available in order that you can extend it as you wish, under a modified version of an open source license. If you have particular suggestions, we're happy to hear them. If you want a particular feature and have resources, we can explore that too.

The original model grew out of Mathematica simulations for my dissertation research at MIT, a collection of four essays under the title Managing Information: Networks, Value, Policy & Principles. The scope, however, has expanded considerably thanks to the remarkable talents of Piotr Dollar and Paul Laskowski who have developed new strategies, designed the tools for creating scenarios, adapted simulations of other scholars, and documented the code. Eddie Gomez has contributed an interface that greatly clarifies what are otherwise incomprehensible mathematical hieroglyphs. Elliot Waingold first translated the Mathematica notebooks into Java.

An underlying motivation is to explore the economics of information. In particular, competition born of scarcity might yield to cooperation born of abundance. If the value of information can rise or fall with increased access, how do we generate conditions for its rise?

You need a Java-enabled browser to use the application. Please make sure you have the JRE 1.4 Plug-in and/or the rest of the Java Standard Edition Platform installed in your machine (I do not). To launch a tutorial, click in the main java window that should appear on top of this page, then choose one of the "load scenario" options listed in the mouse menu.

 We hope you enjoy the simulations.

 Marshall W. Van Alstyne
 Ann Arbor
 August 2001


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