Monday, February 02, 2009

Introduction: Human Autonomy, Technology and Law

Do machines control us or do we control machines? Do we live in a Matrix-like environment oblivious to the fact that technologies structure our individual lives as well as the societies in which we live? Or are we in charge of these technologies?

How one thinks about the relationship between individual autonomy (sometimes referred to as individual willpower or human agency) and technology can influence the way legal thinkers develop policy at the intersection of law and technology. In fact, views on this topic can fundamentally alter legal analysis in many circumstances.

We are fortunate to have a group of law and technology researchers who will blog on this topic over the next month (the blogging schedule is located to the right of this post).

Many thanks to Jim Chen for maintaining this techtheory blog and for helping to administrate the upcoming blogs. Our discussion will follow an earlier blog at this site, which was organized by Gaia Bernstein and Frank Pasquale roughly two years ago. In this earlier blog, a number of researchers weighed in with views on the need to develop law and technology theories. Kieran Tranter summarized these earlier blogs (as well as related scholarly publications) by noting that researchers are engaged in "an interdisciplinary project that uses social scientific material to generate some specific generalizations about law and technology."

In 2008, a number of us met at the Annual Law and Society Meeting to discuss how we should proceed, and it was decided that it would be helpful to blog on a more specific topic involving law and technology matters, which led to the current topic. I'll start off with the first two posts then others will continue with posts every second day.

One last note: some of these blogs will be revised into journal articles for a forthcoming issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society (to be organized by upcoming blogger Jennifer Chandler). For this reason, comments by interested observers are of particular importance so that we can sharpen our analysis and hopefully promote progress in the development of law and technology theories and perspectives. Comments are most welcome!


Blogger Coda said...

Excellent posts. Has anyone considered Don Ihde in this area?

2/03/2009 8:47 AM  
Blogger Arthur Cockfield said...

Thanks for the comment. I've heard of Ihde and know he was an early contributor to discussions about philosophies of technology, but I'm afraid I don't know much about his works. Do you think his writings would help us to understand the relationship among law, technology, and human autonomy?

2/03/2009 12:19 PM  
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