Social Modeling and Mechanism Design

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Spring Semester 2015

This is the website for the course entitled "Social Modeling and Mechanism Design" which commences in the spring semester of 2015. The lectures take place every Monday from 17.15 to 18.45 in room CLU C1. Course material for students will be published below. More detailed information about the course may be found here.

Course material is intended for personal use in the context of this course only; redistributing, citing or publishing any of the material is strictly prohibited. If prompted, please enter your ETH username and password to download course materials.


Formal models of societies greatly improved our understanding of social processes, the conditions under which they have negative outcomes, and the design of mechanisms that counteract unfavorable dynamics. In each course session, a societal problem (e.g. residential segregation, crowd disasters, economic bubbles) is discussed and students learn how to develop mechanisms that help prevent the problem.


The course has three aims. Firstly, students will be introduced to the key formal models of social processes. Secondly, students will learn how to analyze formal models in order to derive predictions about the conditions under which societal problems emerge. Thirdly, students will learn to use formal modeling to develop mechanisms that counteract problems.


The course will consist of two parts. Part I introduces students to the most important formal models of social processes. Each session will focus on one particular societal problem, introducing existing models, their predictions about the conditions under which the problem emerges, and potential interventions. In Part II students will work on small projects, either developing and analyzing a new model or extending existing formal models.

Course Material

Date Lecturer Topic
16.02. Heinrich Nax Introduction to the course (PDF, 620 KB)
23.02. Dirk Helbing Stampedes, Crowds, and Makkah (PDF, 92.2 MB), Review article (PDF, 1.1 MB)
02.03. Dirk Helbing
Traffic Jams, and how to get rid of them (PDF, 10.7 MB)
09.03. Seth Frey
Multiple methods for managing real-world commons (PDF, 14.2 MB)
16.03. Heinrich Nax
Public Good Provision Mechanisms (PDF, 779 KB)
23.03. Seth Frey
Multiple methods for managing real-world commons (PDF, 14.2 MB)
30.03. Heinrich Nax Public Good Provision Mechanisms (PDF, 779 KB)
13.04. Heinrich Nax
Democracy and Economic Growth (PDF, 274 KB)
20.04 Seth Frey
Mechanisms on Virtual Worlds
27.04. student presentations Students present their projects and progress to the class and provide feedback to each other. At least one of the lecturers will be present for each session.
04.05. student presentations
11.05. student presentations
18.05.   final exam
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Mon Feb 20 05:01:04 CET 2017
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