A fork in the road: Perspectives on sustainability and decentralised governance in digital institutions


  • Matthew Lovett University of Gloucestershire
  • Lee Thomas oo.computer




A digital institution is a set of computer-based rules that perform intermediating roles upon which one or more person’s well-being depends. This article argues that governance, the processes and customs by which rules are agreed, is critical to the sustainability of the digital institution and therefore of society more broadly. The objective of this work was to interrogate whether emerging decentralised architectures (blockchain) can offer new perspectives on digital sustainability in the form of decentralised governance. Firstly, the literature on decentralised modes of governance was synthesised. Then, existing digital institutions were reviewed, categorised and mapped onto a multi-domain layered conceptual framework that draws out three distinct modes for enactment of changes to digital institution rules; direct, integrated, and fork-based. We concluded that the coupling of decentralised governance approaches with fork-based or integrated enactment stands to enhance digital sustainability through increased perception of trustworthiness afforded through independently verifiable and cryptographically secure audit trails.

Author Biographies

Matthew Lovett, University of Gloucestershire

Academic Lead for the Music and Sound Department at the University of Gloucestershire

Lee Thomas, oo.computer

Independent researcher with a background in power engineering and computing. He is founder of oo.computer, a transparent and decentralised system that aims to accelerate the revelation of valuable ideas.




How to Cite

Lovett, M., & Thomas, L. (2021). A fork in the road: Perspectives on sustainability and decentralised governance in digital institutions. First Monday, 26(11). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v26i11.12357