Sub-theme 8. Opportunities and challenges of digital commons
New approaches to commons governance from the blockchain ecosystem
In April 1956, the lecture was given at the Institute of Electrical Engineers on the “computer in a non-arithmetical role.” The title reflects that there was a time when it was hard to imagine that computers were more than calculators. Today we are in a similar position with the role of blockchain technologies in resource management: “crypto in a non-market role.” What are the possibilities of new decentralized technologies for fostering polycentric, institutionally diverse governance to today’s and tomorrow’s common pool resources? This panel will introduce work by practitioners and researchers “in crypto” and other facets the decentralized web, toward expanding the imagination of commons scholars of where these technologies could be taking us, and what we have to learn from them about fostering more participatory and empowering approaches to resource governance in general.
1. Political, economic, and governance attitudes of blockchain users
The Metagovernance Project, USA
Much of the political potential of blockchain technologies for healthier commons depends on the demographics of the crypto community. We present a survey to evaluate crypto-political, crypto-economic, and crypto-governance sentiment in people who are part of a blockchain ecosystem. Based on 3710 survey responses, we describe their beliefs, attitudes, and modes of participation in crypto and investigate how self-reported political affiliation and blockchain ecosystem affiliation are associated with these. We observed polarization in questions on perceptions of the distribution of economic power, personal attitudes towards crypto, normative beliefs about the distribution of power in governance, and external regulation of blockchain technologies. Differences in political self-identification correlated with opinions on economic fairness, gender equity, decision-making power and how to obtain favorable regulation, while blockchain affiliation correlated with opinions on governance and regulation of crypto and respondents’ semantic conception of crypto and personal goals for their involvement. We also find that a theory-driven constructed political axis is supported by the data and investigate the possibility of other groupings of respondents or beliefs arising from the data. These findings suggest that there is a (very active, very minority) active minority of blockchain developers with the values necessary to contribute meaningfully to digital commoning.
2. Decision-making in citizen science technologies: a spectrum of possibilities
Institute of Marine Sciences, Spain
The technologies that facilitate the coproduction of scientific knowledge between scientists and volunteers are citizen science platforms or citizen observatories. Millions of data are generated annually around the world by communities of volunteers. As data generation expands, so do the possibilities for communities to use these technologies to solve their problems. Environmental conflicts, land management, traffic monitoring and deforestation are some of the problems that have been addressed. Citizen observatories face multiple challenges to be effective and survive in the long term. Those challenges as present in multiple dimensions: infrastructure, standards, workflows, data management, access and use rules, communication and engagement. One of the cornerstones to facing these challenges is empowering the communities that use these platforms. Empowerment means actively participating in decision-making and management. Moving from the model of communities as “only users” to communities as “decision agents”.
Documentation of experiences on how communities participate in decisions to manage citizen science technologies is quite limited. Although the topic of governance of data and infrastructure is the order of the day, the information available on this topic on citizen science platforms still needs to be made available.
We will share the results of documenting experiences about decision-making for the management of citizen science platforms. Based on these experiences, we will present the governance model proposed for MINKA. MINKA is a citizen observatory that seeks to facilitate the monitoring of sustainable development goals (SDGs) with an emphasis on environmental and biodiversity monitoring.
3. Technological Tools for the Commons. Dissident Algorithms’ Organizations
1Coventry University, UK, 2Institute of Radical Imagination, Italy
This paper focuses on relational and technological tools for self-organization that have been developed within movements for the commons during the last 10 years between the financial and the pandemic crisis and beyond. Within the self-managed spaces taken into account, horizontal, non-hierarchical decision-making processes have been developed, mostly based on the sharing of means of production, and a supportive and non-competitive distribution of knowledge.
This research would like to update the concept of DAO, a Decentralized Autonomous Organization, in the context of the process of commoning. In the international debate, DAO contains the challenge to shape the life of an organization on the basis of the set of tools using mainly blockchain technologies to automatize different autonomous peer initiatives. I would like to raise the question: which of these sets of tools is really sustainable to foster collaboration instead of competition by going beyond the capitalistic mode of production?
The project aims to introduce a survey and map the most interesting tools and methodologies in use within the European panorama of activism for a post-capitalist ecological transition. The survey and the mapping process aim both at making technological tools available and experimenting with them in the specific context of the Institute of Radical Imagination’s productive and collaborative platform.
The Institute of Radical Imagination was born in 2017 as a monster/alternative institution by artists, activist researchers and cultural operators.
4. “Blockchain Technology: How to move from competition to cooperation?”
National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS), France and Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, USA
There is a big potential for blockchain technology to enable new forms of cooperation, but so far most of its applications follow the traditional model of market-based competition and speculative dynamics. What would it mean to build an open and collaborative society based on cooperation instead of competition?
First, this requires moving away from the idea of economic activity as a zero-sum game, where one person’s gain is another person’s loss, towards a more ecosystemic and cooperative model where economic activity brings benefits to everyone involved – as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Yet, while such a vision has become more and more popular in the web3 ecosystem, we are still lacking mechanisms to accurately evaluate – both quantitatively and qualitatively – the value of everyone’s contribution to the whole.
For such a vision to come into being, we need to devise better decentralized reputation and value distribution systems that do not rely on objective, centralized evaluation systems, but rather on subjective, distributed systems of peer-to-peer evaluation that support a broader variety (and plurality) of views.
Extrapolating this principle to broader society requires workings towards the development of new systems of sense-making and decision-making that do not rely on consensus or objectivity, encouraging people to compete with one another to achieve a specific outcome, but rather on a system that recognizes and embraces a large plurality of subjective values, encouraging people to cooperate in order to interoperate.