"This Place Does What It Was Built For" Journal Article uri icon



  • Whether we recognize it or not, the Internet is rife with exciting and original institutional forms that are transforming social organization on and offline. Governing these Internet platforms and other digital institutions has posed a challenge for engineers and managers, many of whom have little exposure to the relevant history or theory of institutional design. The dominant guiding practices for the design of digital institutions to date in human-computer interaction, computer-supported cooperative work, and the tech industry at large have been an incentive-focused behavioral engineering paradigm encompassing atheoretical approaches such as emulation, A/B-testing, engagement maximization, and piecemeal issue-driven engineering. One institutional analysis framework that has been useful in the study of traditional institutions comes from scholars of natural resource management, particularly that community of economists, anthropologists, and environmental and political scientists focused around the work of Elinor Ostrom, known collectively as the "Ostrom Workshop." A key finding from this community that has yet to be broadly incorporated into the design of many digital institutions is the importance of including participatory change mechanisms in what is called a "constitutional layer" of institutional design. The institutional rules that compose a constitutional layer facilitate stakeholder participation in the ongoing process of institutional design change. We explore to what extent consideration of constitutional layers is met or could be better met in three varied cases of digital institutions: cryptocurrencies, cannabis informatics, and amateur Minecraft server governance. Examining such highly varied cases allows us to demonstrate the broad relevance of constitutional layers in many different types of digital institutions.

publication date

  • November 7, 2019

has restriction

  • bronze

Date in CU Experts

  • January 26, 2020 5:26 AM

Full Author List

  • Frey S; Krafft PM; Keegan BC

author count

  • 3

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2573-0142

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 31


  • 3


  • CSCW