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2020 Winners

First Place:  Brent Bihr, Dark Patterns, Warcraft, and Cybersex: The Addictive Face of Predatory Online Platforms and Pioneering Policies to Protect Consumers

Second Place:  Olivia Stitz, Comity, Tipping Points, and Commercial Significance: What to expect of the Hague Judgments Convention

The Ross-Blakley Law Library at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of the Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research.

Brent Bihr is the first-place award recipient for his paper: Dark Patterns, Warcraft, and Cybersex: The Addictive Face of Predatory Online Platforms and Pioneering Policies to Protect Consumers. Bihr is a second-year student. Olivia Stitz is the second-place winner for her paper: Comity, Tipping Points, and Commercial Significance: What to expect of the Hague Judgments Convention.  Stitz is also second- year student.

Their papers demonstrate sophistication and originality in the use of research materials, exceptional innovation in research strategy, and skillful synthesis of research results into a comprehensive scholarly analysis.  A review panel comprised of librarians Beth DiFelice and Tara Mospan and Clinical Professor Kimberly Holst selected the winners from a number of very competitive entries.

Brent Bihr’s paper was written for his journal note based on his own personal experience with the iron grip that internet platforms hold over nearly all our lives. Bihr wrote: At a time where the public is scrutinizing large technology companies and the questionable ethics of their business practices, he thought an article examining internet addiction and online platforms’ potential liability would be timely.

Bihr’s research process began by reading two books about behavioral addiction theory, internet addiction, and how online platforms create an addictive experience. This provided him with some basic knowledge from which to guide his research. He dug deeper into psychology research on the ASU Law Library search engine, Psychinfo, and Psychology Today which served to bolster his background with research from psychology journals. He also turned to journalism from the BBC, Vice News, and The Economist that covered how online platforms use internet addiction. Bihr’s broad scope approach provided him with varied voices from industry insiders, psychology researchers, and the popular press about the addictive strategies of online platforms.

For the analysis section of his paper Bihr turned to Westlaw to find recent caselaw that directly connected to his topic. While the cases he found were based on claims of negligent and intentional tort, he made the decision to discuss additional causes of action as well as legislative and regulatory solutions. This led him to read proposed legislation and press releases from congressmen and congresswomen who were supporting new policies to tackle internet addiction. In exploring other potential causes of action, Bihr also turned to secondary sources on Westlaw and Lexis like Principles of Products Liability by Richard Wright.

Bihr says: One lesson I learned from this process was that to be effective and creative in researching and crafting arguments, it helps to cast a wide net. As I was exploring my topic, I stumbled across comparisons between internet addiction and tobacco and opioid litigation. This led me to articles like A Sociolegal History of the Tobacco Tort Litigation, which helped me identify new arguments and defenses, and allowed me to draw parallels in my argument. I learned that I do not have to reinvent the wheel with legal research. Casting a wide net and looking at history can help me identify approaches to a topic that I had not yet considered. Ultimately, I wrote my Note with a variety of sources and with a wide array of information to make my Note accessible and useful to legal scholars, judges, lawyers, and the general public, for a topic that affects us all.

Bihr’s wide-ranging use of resources and historical research set his paper apart.

Olivia Stitz’s paper was prepared for her journal comment requirement. She selected the topic based on her research indicating it was a current and live issue with little other academic reviews available. Stitz’s paper is based on three international conventions, one being the primary focus and purpose of the paper. The other two conventions supplement the analysis by putting the primary convention into perspective. The goal of her paper is to predict the primary convention's impact on the current legal market.

Stitz says she started her research with law firm blog announcements to gain a basic and general understanding of the issue at hand. She also sought out law journal articles to learn the basics of arbitration which, at the time, she had no foundation. Stitz then turned to the Conventions themselves. She read through them and turned to interpretative committee notes, explanatory reports, and glossaries. This was further supplemented by law review articles, ABA articles, and similar other sources for sub-topics analyzed. The article also analyzes statistics, which she pulled from various reputable sources, such as the AAA and court CJRA reports.

Stitz says: The research, analysis, and writing project taught me that the biggest chunk of the work is knowledge, getting up to speed on the topic, and establishing a strong basic understanding of the subject matter. Once I found my sources and learned the subject matter, I could research about what I wanted to say in the paper. Once all research was done, putting my thoughts and research into written words was the easiest and fastest part of the project. Perhaps the second hardest task was bluebooking my foreign jurisdiction sources.

Throughout her research Stitz noted: It was important to me to keep an open mind and continuously adjust and update my prediction. It was also a learning process in finding reputable sources without finding sources that were only in line with my thought - searching objectively rather than subjectively. Often, I would find a good source and would use it as a jumping board into other sources, taking their citations and building on that collection of sources for myself.

Stitz’s philosophy of knowledge-based research along with her flexible objectivity produced a winning paper. Her paper is set to be published in the Corporate and Business Journal.