Name game 1

One of my Wharton colleagues just asked me what to call the scholarly field I’m in. It’s a good question. My work — and that of fellow academics like Susan Crawford, Phil Weiser, Christopher Yoo, Yochai Benkler, Barbara van Schewick, and Tim Wu — sits somewhere between telecommunications law (focused on regulated networks) and cyberlaw (focused on intellectual property and other rules governing online activities).

One reason for the difficulty is that the underlying markets are in flux. Telecom and media industries are converging, and the regulated communications world is coming together with the historically unregulated Internet. That’s the reason issues like network neutrality are arising in the first place.

I’ve taken to calling what I do “network infrastructure policy” — the legal and associated issues governing digital communications and information platforms.

It’s not elegant, but it’s the best I’ve come up with. It gets at the notion that there is something distinctive about networks (which ties us to the many scholars in other areas studying networks and other complex systems), and something distinctive about infrastructure (as people such as Brett Frischman and Doc Searls have explained). But I’m open to other suggestions. Anyone?

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