How do conventions emerge and evolve in complex decentralized social systems? This question engages fields as diverse as sociology, economics, cognitive science and network science. Various attempts to solve this puzzle pre-suppose that formal or informal institutions are needed to facilitate a solution. The complex systems approach, by contrast, hypotheses that such institutions are not necessary. In this talk, I will discuss theoretical and experimental results that demonstrate the spontaneous creation of universally adopted social conventions. Then, I will discuss how social norms change, showing how historical data and lab experiments indicate that abrupt transitions between competing norms do not require the intervention of a centralized authority. Finally, I will present some recent results on the modelling of the cryptocurrency market, where users conventionally attribute value to electronic tokens. Overall, these results clarify the processes of social coordination and can help identify and/or design collective behavioural change online or offline.


Research Themes

Research Programmes