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Computational Legal Studies

The Freedom to Tinker blog (a good read in its own right) points to a fascinating new blog where two University of Michigan grad students are applying computational information analysis and complex systems thinking to issues of law and government; this visualization of US Code Title 11 (the law governing bankruptcy) is just one nifty example.

Computational Legal Studies




We have become interesting in visualizing the structure of the law including its components and subcomponents. In reduced form, statutes, regulations and certain other units of the law can be characterized in graph theoretical terms. While we do not make deep inroads on the content of this above graph, we do generate a tree traversable visualization for its structure.

Much of my training in law school particularly in the so called “code-based” classes was focused upon developing mental models for the structure and content of graphs such as the one displayed above. In my case, I believe the usage of such a visualization early in a code-based course would have been beneficial. Thus, we offer this traversable visualization to the world for not only its research value but also for pedagogical purposes.

There are some fascinating ideas in government transparency popping up these days, mostly driven by individuals and small groups taking advantage of whatever information does manage to worm its way out into public view. Sort of the opposite of “Munge” (mash until no good), these folks mash until *good*.

Hopefully this will lead to expanded publishing of government data in tractable formats, and perhaps even a new acronym for Greg: how about CSCPS (Computer Supported Collaborative Political Science)?

One Comment

  1. Greg Wilson wrote:

    I’ve hit my acronym coining quota for this term, but perhaps I can persuade a grad student to burn some of theirs 🙂

    Friday, April 3, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink