The growing international commons literature on traditional, natural-resource commons allowed scholars to more deeply analyze how commons work and to better understand why they fail. For Elinor Ostrom, it led to her seminal book, Governing the Commons in1990. Ostrom applied a complex set of instruments to eighty-six case studies to commons of different sectors and varying geographical regions. From her analysis, she was able to determine eight design principles that long-enduring, robust commons shared.
The Ostrom design principles62 are:
The Ostrom design principles are considered today as useful tools by many scholars in commons study. All the commons in the study, however, were managed by relatively small, homogenous groups. We do not know if these principles scale up nor do we know how the design principles would apply to the microbial commons. We might be able to use some of the principles as a place to start, although certain principles—such as group boundaries being clearly defined—may be harder to apply. Other principles, such as the importance of monitoring mechanisms, may take on even greater importance.
Interest in new commons, for the most part, emerged after the World Wide Web had gained ubiquity in the mid-1990s. They tend to have several characteristics that distinguish them from traditional natural-resource commons. Many are human-made resources, such as open source software, the Internet, and scientific research commons. Or they are resources that have been newly recognized as commons, such as urban landscapes, parking spaces, parks, and even garbage dumps. Many new commons have arisen out of the development of new technologies or the growth of new communities. Unlike traditional natural resource commons, new commons tend to be dynamic, quite complex, and heterogeneous. Many are global in scale and have fuzzy boundaries. There is a great deal that we do not yet know about new commons, particularly how they work and if they can be sustained.
62 See Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.