Cooperation or competition – When do people contribute more? A field experiment on gamification of crowdsourcing

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During the past decade, advances in modern information and communication technologies have enabled novel forms of economic coordination of under-utilized resources be it human capital, information goods, material goods, or even funding. Perhaps the most noteworthy Internet-based developments that have made resource coordination more effective in recent years are crowdsourcing [8][10][33], crowdfunding [1], and the sharing economy [11] [39]. Crowdsourcing in particular commonly uses the Internet to simplify the coordination of human capital and to employ the ‘crowd’ – a mass of people reachable via the Internet [2][8][10][29] – for distributed cooperative problem-solving [2] [7] [33]. Especially crowdsourcing initiatives where large groups of people explicitly work together to jointly create solutions <[7] has drawn attention in recent years. Popular examples, such as Wikipedia (a crowd-generated comprehensive online encyclopedia), OpenStreetMap (a crowd-generated digital world map), Waze (a navigation system with real-time, crowd-generated traffic information), TripAdvisor (an online portal for crowd-generated reviews of hotels, restaurants, and travel locations) Yelp (a crowd-generated world-spanning business directory), or Ingress (an augmented reality game with a crowd-generated database of landmarks and public art) have spawned comprehensive crowd-created solutions that have made our lives easier [3][9][12][23][27][30][31][33][41].Inspired by these successful approaches, many organizations are now attempting to harness the collective potential of crowds in order to face the increasing need for extensive databases as part of the emerging digitalization. This includes initiatives such as the crowd-based collecting of data for smart cities [6], the crowd-creation of ground truths for machine learning approaches[38], or the distributed gathering of location-based data to enable autonomous driving [13].

However, any crowdsourcing initiative’s success strongly depends on the willingness of a reserve of people to participate in collective value creation [2][7][22]. The design of appropriate incentive mechanisms that get people to participate in crowdsourcing and motivate active crowdsourcees to invite others via word of mouth is thus of great relevance for the designers and operators of crowdsourcing initiatives[18][42][43]. Studies have shown that extrinsic incentives, such as financial compensations or utilitarian benefits that arise from the purpose of a crowdsourcing initiative, often play a subordinate role in crowdsourcees’ motivations[18][40][43]. Various studies indicate that crowdsourcees are driven by intrinsic aspects, such as altruism, the sense of accomplishment, self-development, curiosity, competence satisfaction, or relatedness with a community of peers[18][21][31][32][40][43].

Playing games is especially believed to be a culmination of autotelic activities[34][37][36]. Therefore, crowdsourcing systems are increasingly gamified[14] [25][24], that is, designers enrich crowdsourcing systems with design features from games that address humans’ innate intrinsic needs in order to transform participation in crowdsourcing more autotelic<[15][25]. While literature reviews have revealed that crowdsourcing is one of the most popular application areas of gamification [14], and while most implementations of gamification seem to positively influence crowdsourcees’ motivations and behaviors[25][24], there is a lack of comparative studies across different gamification designs. The research has primarily investigated the differences between gamified and non-gamified crowdsourcing [4][28] [35] or the effects of a specific gamification feature ; however, the differences between various gamification design features and particularly the effects of features that invoke different goal structures such as competition, cooperation, and inter-team competition have been largely ignored in gamification [5][20][25] and game design research.[19] This knowledge gap prevents us from designing gamification that optimally harnesses the full potential of the crowd [25][24]. Thus, while there is clear potential to use gamification in crowdsourcing applications, more granular research result would afford more effective gamification designs for crowdsourcing and similar systems where people cooperatively create emerging outcomes.

To address these gaps, this study investigated how crowdsourcees’ perceived enjoyment and usefulness, behaviors (system usage, crowdsourcing participation, engagement with the gamification feature) and willingness to recommend crowdsourcing approaches are influenced by the use of cooperative, competitive, and inter-team competitive gamification in crowdsourcing systems. First, we conceptualized cooperative, competitive, and inter-team competitive gamification by drawing on social interdependence theory[17][16] and gamification research[25][26]. Second, we advanced the understanding of their effects on crowdsourcees’ motivations and behaviors by conducting a large field experiment with a gamified crowdsourcing application called ParKing, which has been developed for the purpose of this research. Pursued this research advances the understanding of competitive and cooperative settings in gamification and provides design knowledge relating to orchestrating competition and cooperation, especially in context of gamified crowdsourcing as well as in related fields.

Cooperation or competition – When do people contribute more? A field experiment on gamification of crowdsourcing
Benedikt Morschheuser
Juho Hamari
Alexander Maedche

Citation: Morschheuser B, Hamari J, Maedche A. (2018). Cooperation or competition – When do people contribute more? A field experiment on gamification of crowdsourcing. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies.

Please see the paper for full details:

Information technology is being increasingly employed to harness under-utilized resources via more effective coordination. This progress has manifested in different developments, for instance, crowdsourcing (e.g. Wikipedia, Amazon Mechanical Turk, and Waze), crowdfunding (e.g. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and RocketHub) or the sharing economy (e.g. Uber, Airbnb, and Didi Chuxing). Since the sustainability of these IT-enabled forms of resource coordination do not commonly rely merely on direct economic benefits of the participants, but also on other non-monetary, intrinsic gratifications, such systems are increasingly gamified that is, designers use features of games to induce enjoyment and general autotelicy of the activity. However, a key problem in gamification design has been whether it is better to use competition-based or cooperation-based designs. We examine this question through a field experiment in a gamified crowdsourcing system, employing three versions of gamification: competitive, cooperative, and inter-team competitive gamification. We study these gamified conditions’ effects on users’ perceived enjoyment and usefulness of the system as well as on their behaviors (system usage, crowdsourcing participation, engagement with the gamification feature, and willingness to recommend the crowdsourcing application). The results reveal that inter-team competitions are most likely to lead to higher enjoyment and crowdsourcing participation, as well as to a higher willingness to recommending a system. Further, the findings indicate that designers should consider cooperative instead of competitive approaches to increase users’ willingness to recommend crowdsourcing systems. These insights add relevant findings to the ongoing discourse on the roles of different types of competitions in gamification designs and suggest that crowdsourcing system designers and operators should implement gamification with competing teams instead of typically used competitions between individuals.

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