Coye Cheshire

11 Feb, 2015

Coye Cheshire

My current research topics include: (1) the role of trust and cooperation in interpersonal online interactions, (2) collective behavior and online collaboration, and (3) social incentives and motivations to contribute in online environments. Find out more about my current research projects here at

Exchange Network Transitions

In this project we develop a set of theoretically-driven arguments for social exchange systems that transition (or shift) between reciprocal exchange and binding or non-binding negotiated exchange. These shifts can be structurally determined (i.e. the form of exchange occurs exogenously from the particular intentions or desires of the participants), or as agent-based transitions (i.e. individuals choose to move to a new form of exchange based on their own experiences and dispositions). We make several predictions about how agent-based transitions occur and about the attributions and contribution outcomes that take place in both structurally-determined and agent-based transitions. This project will help advance the theoretical tradition of social exchange processes, developing the first series of testable hypotheses for how shifts between different types of exchange occur. Furthermore, we will examine how individual attitudes and attributions about exchange partners change over time as a result of these transitions.

Social Psychological Selective Incentives and the Emergence of Generalized Information Exchange

This project examines how generalized exchange systems emerge when information, as the object of exchange, produces a collective good. In the generalized information exchange systems that I focus on in my research, individuals contribute to a collective good (pool of information), and the rewards that an actor receives come from this collective good. Thus, these exchange systems are also analogous to many public goods or collective action problems. Because it is rational to free ride by receiving information (or information goods) from the public pool of information while not contributing to it, generalized information exchange systems require individuals to overcome a social dilemma. In fact, my dissertation shows that the form of the social dilemma is directly related to the nature of the good in the exchange, such as information. Thus, this project has implications for the development of public pools of information on the Internet, such as those found in popular peer-to-peer networks like the original Napster, Kazaa, Morpheus, and others.

Trust-Building and Cooperation in Online Settings

In collaboration with Karen S. Cook and graduate researchers in the Stanford University Department of Sociology, this project includes a series of surveys and experimental projects investigating how individuals assess the trustworthiness of potential exchange partners in online (computer-mediated) and offline (non computer-mediated) settings. The first phase of these quasi-experimental surveys were conducted in Spring 2005, and were presented at the Academy Colloquium on Trust and Cooperation in Online Interaction in Amsterdam, Netherlands (May 2005). The next phase of surveys was conducted in 2005-2006, and examines how individuals assess trustworthiness of others who offer services (versus material goods) in online settings.

About Coye

I am an associate professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information (ISchool). My work focuses on how various forms of exchange are produced and maintained on the Internet, and more broadly, in computer-mediated exchanges. Since computer-mediated environments often prevent us from using the social cues that we rely on in other forms of social interaction, these situations provide a unique and fascinating setting for studying social phenomena. I am a technology advocate and self-admitted computer and information technology enthusiast, so my attraction to sociology and the Internet, media, and computer-mediated communication became a natural blend of my personal and professional pursuits.