Sounds like a surreal double-play in baseball (“Tinker to Evers to Chance“) but it’s simply the path of influence as charted by Mike Love using an application called Touchgraph. I’m fascinated by tools that visualize data, and moreso by those that reveal the relationships among parts. Mike Love’s Genealogy of Influence charts the ways in which 500 seminal thinkers have influenced each other over time; and the dynamic nature of the table lets you bring any particular thinker to the fore — as figure, with the others as ground. This sort of dynamic charting has been around for a while but hasn’t yet found its way into the mainstream; still, I think there might well be some merit here in applying this sort of relationship mapping to a body of law.
Speaking of which, you might want to take a look at LawMaps.org where three men have made mind maps of various legal subjects in British law schools. You can download the map in PDF or, for a more dynamic experience, in .mmp format, which is used by various mind mapping applications, and can be imported into the (wonderful and free) Freemind application. I’ve uploaded their “map” of the European Union in the .mm format for Freemind to a site of mine, and you can download the .mmp version here. The point here, of course, is not so much the particular course data as it is the interesting use of mind maps to render a fairly complex topic, letting us expand and collapse topic areas and create links from one area to another. By comparison with the Love map, however, a mind map is somewhat less flexible and has a tendency to make relationships hierarchical.
Less flexible still, and unable to render relationships other than by contiguity, are those applications that let you roam over a large static graphic. We’re all more or less used to this because of PDF files, which allow a reader to zoom in and out. We may not think of using a complex graphic as a mapping tool, but sometimes a synoptic view is really helpful in letting us grasp a whole topic; and if we’re then free to explore certain areas in greater detail, we may find our understanding enhanced. Zoomify offers a free tool that enables you to put a large graphic on the web in such a way that a viewer can explore the whole or any of its parts. I’ve put up two such graphics for you to play with, the first being the Magna Carta, which sadly isn’t as big as it should be, and the second being a florid Viennese building (which is probably bigger than it should be in all ways).