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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SCOTUS Mapping Going Forward

Over the past weeks, I've been blogging here about the SCOTUS Mapping project. Up until now, my focus has been on the theory animating doctrinal maps and their potential application in teaching and scholarship. By now, Prawfs fans should get the basic idea. Today then, I want to pull back from the cartographic details and discuss the big picture project. Instead of individual maps, let's consider the whole atlas.

In broad strokes, the project has two distinct components.The first component is the Mapper software. While the software already supports the creation of complex doctrinal maps and interactive slideshows, the plan is to develop it further. The project's second component is to create a public library of doctrinal maps. Right now, the project has generated about a dozen maps that cover disparate areas of due process, equal protection, commerce, and Fourth Amendment doctrine. Many uncharted territories remain -- and the idea is to build up a library that would be a useful free resource for law students, practictioners, and academics alike.

I hope that Prawfs readers who study Court doctrine and enjoy visual thinking might consider participating in the library-building component of the project. To wit: I'm looking for folks to play with the software and create doctrinal maps. To help pique interest, I have secured funding from my home institution that will allow me to offer modest stipends to potential map-makers. These stipends will range from $250 to $500 per doctrinal map. Obviously no King's Ransom, these stipends aim only to give a little extra incentive to folks otherwise curious about doctrinal mapping and sympathetic with the SCOTUS Mapping Project.

For potentially interested folks, the basic process from here is simple enough. First, choose a doctrine. This means thinking of a line of Supreme Court cases -- or intesecting lines of cases -- that you would like to chart out. Second, send me an email describing the line(s) you would like to map. In your email, please try to give me a sense of the complexity of the map you are considering. How long is the line? What are the major opinions you suspect will be in it?  Do you envision a map with competing lines?

To be clear, I do not expect proposal emails to have the doctrinal details perfectly worked out. Indeed, the whole point of the mapping process is to help uncover such details and to facilitate making previously unnoticed doctrinal connections. I just want a fair sense of your ambition and current familiarity with the uncharted territory. This will help me assess the complexity at issue and amount of time likely required to put a map together.

I hope to review proposals fairly quickly and respond within two weeks. If we agree on a map and stipend, the next step will involve signing a contract, getting you the software, and jumping in to map making! After you make your proposed map, you receive the stipend and then your map goes into the Project library. You then keep the software and may make as many more maps as you please. In return, I only ask that you give feedback on the software (it is still in beta development) and credit the project if you use the maps in a public forum. 

So that's basic idea for the SCOTUS Mapping Project going forward. In my next post, I'll discuss areas of doctrine that are ripe for mapping -- based largely on cases the Court will hear in the upcoming Term. Until then, and as always, I welcome comments or questions.

p.s. To contact me offline or to send a mapping proposal, my email address is [email protected]

Posted by Colin Starger on September 25, 2013 at 11:06 AM | Permalink


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