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