17 February, 2016

Law and Technology

            Lawyers and legal institutions regularly face technological change. The public record of the twentieth and this century is populated by numerous crisis events that surround emerging technology where law was called forth to channel, to regulate, or prohibit certain technologies and technological mediated activities. This rich history coupled with the ever present concern of technological change would suggest that there is a detailed scholarly reflection on the relationship between law and technology. However, this is not necessarily the case. Most scholarship on law and technology is reactive to concerns surrounding a specific technology or technological mediated activity. This orthodox scholarship remains within a reasonably narrow frame of reference concerned with securing a desirable future through law as an instrument of public policy. In this the lawyer- scholar's task is primarily descriptive; it involves the identification of the 'issues', 'uncertainties' and the 'gaps' to be addressed by policy-makers and legislators. This symposium aims to challenge this orthodoxy at three key points.
          The first challenge can be through taking seriously the past law's engagement with technology. Instead of issue specific piecemeal engagements that look narrowly to the future, it is hoped through archival, historical and cultural sources to gleam a more sophisticated account of the social, political, economic and cultural factors that gave 'form to concrete law and technology moments.
          The second challenge can be through taking seriously the present law's engagement with technology. Law faces profound technological change. However, instead of falling back on the narrow neology of the orthodox scholarship, what is hoped for is a diverse array of methods and resources- social, scientific, cultural and literary studies for example - to expose, critique and understand the current political-legal engagements with technological change.
          The third challenge can be through taking seriously of the future of law's engagement with technology. The predominant theory of law in the orthodox scholarship is instrumental and sovereign. At a fundamental level, law is conceived as a process, a machine that can be deployed. And significantly it is a process that can claim sovereignty over the future. Ironically, the law called forth by technology can be characterized as technological. Through jurisprudential, philosophic, semiotic, psychoanalytic and other theoretically informed discourses, it is hoped to question and think over these deep connections between law and technology. 

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