Thursday, April 28, 2011

Towards multi-modal law

The recording and expressing of law needs to very quickly come to grips with the "new"[1] phenomenon of the internet and digital media. The judicial branch is probably going to be the place where it happens first. See illustrated judgements for some examples.

Law started out as a largely oral phenomenon but became very textual over time. With some notable exceptions (e.g. oral arguments, various forms of declaration), the written record of the thing *is* the thing itself in the world of law. I.e. acts of congress live in the paper they are committed to. The paper is not a second-hand, best-efforts transcript of what was really said out loud by Congress. From a legal perspective, it *is* what Congress said. What Congress said out loud may be useful background information (a view held by some legal theorists, but not all) but the law itself lives in the four corners of the paper it is written on.

Now along comes the Internet. Dynamic web pages. Audio streams. Video streams. Interactive Maps...How much longer can the notion that law-is-mostly-words hold? As the law-making process becomes more and more digital, we will see more and more photos, interactive graphs, dynamic maps, spreadsheets etc. being passed into law.

We are headed towards a multi-modal view of law. A world in which law is not merely written words and not merely audio/video of spoken words. It is a new thing in the world. It is beyond words (so to speak).

A profound change cometh.

[1] At law time-scales, the internet is very new. Recording of law after all, goes back to at least 1700 BC

1 comment:

Digital Media said...

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