Knowledge Management for Democratic Governance of Socio-Technical Systems

  • Jeremy PittEmail author
  • Ada Diaconescu
  • Josiah Ober
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11300)


The Digital Transformation (DX) is a broad term describing the changes and innovations brought about by the introduction of information and communication technologies into all aspects of society. One such innovation is to empower bottom-up, self-governing socio-technical systems for a range of applications. Such systems can be based on Ostrom’s design principles for self-governing institutions for sustainable common-pool resource management. However, two of these principles, both focussing on self-determination, are vulnerable to distortion: either from within, as a narrow clique take control and run the system in their own, rather than the collective, interest; or from without, as an external authority constrains opportunities for self-organisation. In this chapter, we propose that one approach to maintaining ‘good’, ‘democratic’ self-governance is to appeal to the transparent and inclusive knowledge management processes that were critical to the successful and sustained period of classical Athenian democracy, and reproduce those in computational form. We review a number of emerging technologies which could provide the building blocks for democratic self-governance in socio-technical systems. However, the reproduction of analogue social processes in digital form is not seamless and not without impact on, or consequences for, society, and we also consider a number of open issues which could disrupt this proposal. We conclude with the observation that ‘democracy’ is not an end-state, and emphasise that self-governing socio-technical systems need responsible design and deployment of technologies that allow for continuous re-design and self-organisation.


Socio-technical systems Algorithmic self-governance Knowledge management Democracy 



The first author has been partially supported by the Leverhulme Trust, Research Fellowship RF-2016-451.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Electrical and Electronic EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Departement INFRESTélécom ParisTech, LTCI, Paris-Saclay UniversityParisFrance
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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