The proliferation of sensor networks, mobile and pervasive computing has provided the technological push for a new class of participatory-sensing applications, based on sensing and aggregating user-generated content, and transforming it into knowledge. However, given the power and value of both the raw data and the derived knowledge, to ensure that the generators are commensurate beneficiaries, we advocate an open approach to the data and intellectual property rights by treating user-generated content, as well as derived information and knowledge, as a common-pool resource. In this paper, we undertake an extensive review of experimental, commercial and social participatory sensory applications, from which we identify that a decentralised, community-oriented governance model is required to support this approach. Furthermore, we show that Ostrom’s institutional analysis and development framework, in conjunction with a framework for self-organising electronic institutions, can be used to give both an architecture and algorithmic base for the requisite governance model, in terms of operational and collective-choice rules specified in computational logic. This provides, we believe, the foundations for engineering knowledge commons for the next generation of participatory-sensing applications, in which the data generators are also the primary beneficiaries.