Brett Frischmann Develops the Governing Knowledge Commons Research Coordination Network


Each day, millions of internet users turn to Wikipedia, open source software and news reporting wire services for information. Just a few examples of knowledge commons, these types of forums provide a community where users share information, data and content—and also increasingly require a governing framework and privacy protections.

To help address this crucial need, in 2020, the National Science Foundation awarded Brett Frischmann, the Charles Widger Endowed University Professor in Law, Business and Economics, a three-year, $350,000 grant to develop the Governing Knowledge Commons research coordination network.

Utilizing the grant, Frischmann and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh and New York University are bringing together expertise from law, the social and behavioral sciences, computer science and engineering to communicate, coordinate and integrate their research and educational activities across disciplinary and organizational boundaries.

Frischmann is a prolific author and researcher who is leading the charge in vital and thought-provoking conversations about how communities share, develop and govern information in today’s digital age. His work appears in prestigious scholarly publications and respected consumer outlets like Scientific American.

He is also a respected thought leader on intellectual property and internet law who examines the consequences of society’s increasing reliance on technology. Joining Villanova in 2017, Frischmann has focused the bulk of his research on three overlapping areas: infrastructure, knowledge commons, and the relationships between the techno-social world and humanity.

His most recent book, Re-Engineering Humanity, focuses on society’s embrace of big data, predictive analytics and smart environments—and individuals’ willingness to hand over personal information, privacy and control to the small group of people and companies providing and regulating that technology.

Using their interdisciplinary expertise, Professor Frischmann and co-author Evan Selinger provide a practical framework for assessing and negotiating the often intricate and hidden tradeoffs of “smart” technology.

“We’re on a slippery slope toward a world in which more and more of our lives, of who we are and who we can be—as individuals and collectively—is managed and governed by supposedly smart techno-social systems,” Frischmann says.

“Have you entered into a contract that you didn’t bother reading? Of course you have; we all have,” he says. “The contracts and, more importantly, the human-computer interface through which they’re presented, are designed so that there’s no point in reading the fine print, much less stopping and thinking about the legal relationships you’re forming or whether the third parties lurking in the background are trustworthy.”