University of Pittsburgh

Legal History: The Technology of Law Seminar

Abbreviated Title: Legal History: The Technology
Catalog Number: 5520
3.0 Credits

These days there’s a great deal of attention being paid in law schools to what might be called the “law of technology,” i.e. doctrinal areas such as intellectual property that regulate our use of new media. Much less attention is focused on the nature and effect of what might be called the “technology of law,” i.e. the physical instrumentalities that we use to create, communicate and preserve legal meaning. For thousands of years, however, law has been intimately shaped by its forms of expression – be those speech and performance, writing, print, radio and television, or now, increasingly, the Internet and the Web – and it can easily be argued that the impact on law of these technological forms has been much greater and deeper (although perhaps far less obvious) than any explicit rules laid down to govern particular media contexts. Without necessarily deferring to the maxim of legendary Canadian media guru Marshall McLuhan that the “medium is the message,” this seminar will explore the ever-changing, sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle byplay between law and its technological carriers in a range of historical contexts from the ancient world to the modern era, literally taking us from law in cuneiform to law on computers. Evaluation will be by student papers, presentations and class participation. Papers written for this course satisfy the upper-level writing requirement. Enrollment is limited to 14 students.

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