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Decentralised Decision-Making in DAOs: Learnings for Digital Democracy

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Blockchain technology has enabled decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), which are self-governing communities that use smart contracts on a blockchain. DAOs make decisions about day-to-day operations and structural changes through community voting, generating a wealth of data in the process. This data provides research opportunities in the field of digital voting and democracy.

Digital democracy emphasizes participation, inclusion, and deliberation, which often requires digital voting. While some technical tools for electronic voting and deliberation already exist, many are still at the experimental stage and have scalability issues. However, DAOs support decision-making at scale, making their voting processes valuable for studying and improving digital democracy.

This project aims to understand the decision-making of DAOs and apply these insights to digital democracy. The main research question is:  To what extent are DAO-based voting mechanisms pioneering new forms of decision-making, which could support or even transform general forms of decision-making that are useful in democratic settings? The hypothesis is that DAO voting mechanisms add value to the development of digital democracy.

An interdisciplinary team from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and the University of Zurich will collect and analyze voting data from different DAOs using blockchain platforms and voting tools and conduct interviews with DAO representatives. The project will provide guidelines for the design of voting systems in digital democracies.