Kristopher A. Nelson, JD, MA

PhD Candidate in history & science studies (technology and privacy). Writer and editor. Law & technology consultant. Web developer. Teacher.

Kristopher A. Nelson, JD, MA

I am a PhD candidate and consultant.

I work on the history of law and technology (History of Science/​Science Studies) at the University of California, San Diego. At UC San Diego, I generally teach legal history mixed with the history of science and technology; at the University of San Diego, I teach history of science and technology mixed with a bit of law.

Outside of academia, I provide law and technology consulting services, including web development and legal research & writing, through kNk Advising. Some of my academic work is available at Google Scholar and bepress. (Note: I am moving away from SSRN.) You can also read more of my informal work at my blog, in propria persona, or follow me on Twitter.

In 1998, I graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in Comparative History of Ideas, Comparative Literature, and Spanish. I then spent almost ten years as a systems analyst (web developer) and manager at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Seeking to bring my technology and critical-analytic skills together, I earned a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. After graduating, I decided that a PhD program in the history of science would be the best way to unify my technical, analytic, and legal training.

Much of my work—including research, teaching, and consulting—is intentionally pragmatic. History, for me, is valuable for its own sake—but critically, it is also useful. History provides us with evidence and data for making decisions today. This evidence may well lack the purity of a chemical equation, but it is used everyday in the courtroom, for example, where reaching a fair result is more important than perfect data. Historical evidence can prove similarly useful to a real-world policymaker.

To help maintain my practical focus, I continue to consult and advise on web development, legal research and writing, and law and technology issues more generally. Engaging with "real-world" issues forces me to keep my research, writing, and teaching grounded and useful.

I am a researcher.

The Impact of Technology on Privacy Law

Broadly stated, my current research involves an investigation into the impact of new technologies on practical aspects of the law. Thus, I am interested in broad questions like whether societal ideals and conceptions drive both the law and technology, or if technology drives the law and societal expectations, or if there is some other factor at play. While primarily an historical investigation, these questions have applicability to the contemporary world, e.g., to issues of Internet privacy, wiretapping, vaccination, contraception, and abortion.

Put differently, I am researching privacy from roughly 1800-1965, and particularly the impacts new technologies (like the telegraph or the contraceptive pill) had on conceptions of privacy. As part of this work, I look at legal history, especially in regards to individual liberty and government intervention, federal versus state authority, the development of common-law precedents, and the perception of scientific and technological expertise and authority.

I also continue to pursue work on other issues, such as the role of technology transfer offices in an increasingly neoliberal university environment, the history of disability law, the limits of the First Amendment, and more. You can find my more formal work at Google Scholar and bepress. (Note: I am moving away from SSRN.) More informal material is at in propria persona.

And a teacher.

Students, Research & Pragmatism

My teaching is student- and research-focused, as well as explicitly pragmatic. I believe history and the humanities are useful—even if that utility is not always measurable in dollars and cents.

As adjunct faculty at the University of San Diego, I teach an introductory course on the history of science. The course covers various key moments in the history of science and technology, from the Greeks, to the Enlightenment, to present-day issues—always asking students, "Why does this matter to you?"

As an Associate-In Instructor at UC San Diego, I teach American Legal History since 1865 (HIUS 151), "Law & Liberty." This upper-division class covers civil rights, the right to contract, the New Deal, discrimination, disability, intellectual property, and privacy (the Fourth Amendment, the Right to Privacy of Katz and Griswold, plus modern business and medical issues).

As a former Teaching Assistant in the Making of the Modern World, the writing program at UC San Diego's Eleanor Roosevelt College, I taught writing and argument in support of world history content up through the medieval period.

I have also been a TA for numerous history and law classes at UC San Diego, including LAWS 101 (Introduction to Law), COMM 114M (Communicatins and the Law), and HILD 2A-B-C (United States History), among many others.

I write, too.

Dissertation, Articles, Legal Materials, and More

In addition to working papers available via Google Scholar and bepress, I have published three law-review articles. Although my current focus is my dissertation on the historical impact of various technologies on privacy law, you can read other less formal work (and previews of dissertation material) at in propria persona.

I also write and edit content for everyone from lawyers to authors of programming tutorials, through my work at kNk Advising and as a freelancer and contractor.

You can even consult me privately.

Consulting & Advising

I provide law and technology consulting services through kNk Advising, which can also help you with other for- or non-profit business matters. Our goal is to help you follow the law, behave ethically, and make more money (for yourself or others) while doing it.