January 2014

The “third-party problem”: one reason telegrams were not constitutionally protected

Unlike postal mail or, later, the telephone, telegrams never received constitutional protection. Yet they were the quintessential nineteenth-century technology of communication, used extensively for business, government, and personal communication, much of which both senders and receivers would have wished to keep to themselves.

December 2013

Musings on law, technology, and privacy

I’ve been working on my dissertation for a few months now (it looks at American privacy law over some 150 years, and investigates how technology interacts with that law). Some of that work will emerge here in draft form eventually, but for now I’ve been thinking about the theoretical/critical framework for my work. Much of this framework will be implicit — since I’m writing a dissertation in history — but it will guide me nonetheless. It will develop throughout the writing process, but here are some initial thoughts.

July 2013

Of MOOCs and Luddites: teaching and the limits of technology

It seems like everyone is talking about MOOCs. According to proponents, massive open online courses will revolutionize higher education and turn traditional academics into the hand weavers (and potential Luddites) of the twenty-first century. But can the efficient delivery of talking heads to far larger audiences than permitted by even the largest lecture halls, all without the geographical constraints of physical buildings, really replace today’s in-person classrooms?

February 2012

Protecting vested interests in the face of new technology: the case of the Charles River Bridge

In the case of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge, 36 U.S. 420 (1837), Justice Roger Taney — most known for his opinion in Dred Scott — decided against the owners and investors in the original bridge over the Charles River in Massachusetts. That bridge had been built by a company granted a charter in 1785 for the […]