Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Even if you don't normally keep up on technology-and-law scholarship (and I don't), anyone interested in mediating structures, subsidiarity, civil society, etc. will want to check out Pittsburgh law prof Michael Madison's paper, "Social Software, Groups, and the Law." Here is the abstract:
Formal groups play an important role in the law. Informal groups largely lie outside it. Should the law be more attentive to informal groups? The paper argues that this and related questions are appearing more frequently as a number of computer technologies, which I collect under the heading "social software," increase the salience of groups. In turn, that salience raises important questions about both the significance and the benefits of informal groups. The paper suggests that there may be important social benefits associated with informal groups, and that the law should move towards a framework for encouraging and recognizing them. Such a framework may be organized along three dimensions by which groups arise and sustain themselves: regulating places, of things, and of stories.
And here's an even more intriguing passage from the paper itself:
Law channels social organizations into prescribed forms, fictionalizing the entity for regulatory purposes. Absent the prescribed form, law looks to the individual. Informal social structures are messy and dynamic; formal legal structures are relatively neat, and static. Part of my argument here is that something is lost in the translation. There may be good which comes from informal groups, which may be lost when group activity is channeled into typical legal forms.