Michael Madison

MM headshot

I’m a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, studying and teaching about governance.

Governance, especially governance in institutions, means systems of rules and norms. Governance is also more than that. Governance means how (and why, and when) the communicative and organizational practices of a diverse world are embodied in durable forms. I ask some broad questions: What’s an institution? How do institutions work? How do institutions function when they intersect and overlap? When and how and why are institutions beneficial? Or costly, or harmful? How do institutions glue us together, shaping social, cultural, economic, and political life? When and how do institutions fail us?

Stripped of academic jargon, that adds up to learning how social systems form and survive over time, given inevitable differences among individuals and groups.

I got my start in law, decades ago, as a corporate and commercial lawyer. I worked my way into a practice area that focused on problems facing technology clients in Silicon Valley. When I left law practice and became a law professor, I became an intellectual property (IP) and technology law researcher and teacher. IP law turns out to be about the social dimensions of knowledge. When, why, and how do we hoard knowledge? Share it? Answers to those questions lead to — and follow — governance of cultural and social life.

Researching institutional governance means that I look at a lot of different things. Recent work includes projects on the organization of global football (soccer, to many); data, algorithms, AI, and security and privacy; the history of research science. Universities; post-industrial urbanism; fair use in copyright law, the arts, and computer networks; and modern leadership and management practices.