CFA: Critical Approaches to Computational Law

by | 22 Jul 2016



Special issue of Computational Culture, a Journal of Software Studies

Edited by Simon Yuill

Online version of this call:

There is a long-standing relationship between the development of modern computing and legal theory and the application of computer systems to legal practice that can be followed through the modelling of legal problems in terms of Game Theory, the creation of AI based legal expert systems, in ideas of cyberspace as a distinct legal realm and the legal framing of cyber warfare. In recent years several new developments have raised significant questions as to how law is practised and what constitutes legal ‘thinking’ in the 21st Century. These include the delegation of aspects of legal reasoning and process to algorithms in areas such as automated vehicle and robotic combat devices, automated contractualism in high-velocity trading and new digital currency systems, the use of machine learning and large scale data sets (Big Data) in gathering evidence and identifying behavioural and normative patterns that may be subject to legal scrutiny, and the use of physical and agent-based simulation in developing new legal regimes and frameworks. Whilst there has been substantial critical writing on the application of law to the use of computing, as in issues such as copyright and IP, there has been less analysis of how law and computing may be changed by the integration of legal and computational systems into one another. What questions do these developments raise and what critical and theoretical approaches are required to address them?

This special issue of Computational Culture welcomes proposals from researchers and practitioners within law and computing, legal and computational cultural studies, and others from across different disciplines interested in the topic of computational law. Documentation and analysis of artistic and activist responses and interventions are also encouraged. We specifically seek articles and projects that focus on critical, theoretical and methodological questions rather than on ‘black letter’ law or primarily practical evaluations of the applications of technology and law in this context.
Topics or projects might include:

  • The relations between computing and law as forms of applied ‘logic’, what logic might be and how it is situated/performed/constructed within each area.
  • How the use of computational systems within law such as machine learning, agent-based simulation or computational dialectics might change how law is practised and what legal ‘thought’ might be.
  • How approaches to law such as, but not restricted to, critical law theory, feminist law theory and critical race theory may be developed in analyses of computational cultures and law.
  • How different critical approaches to law, software and computing may relate to and learn from one another.
  • How automated and algorithmic forms of legal practice relate to debates on formalist versus hermeneutic approaches to law.
  • The relation between protocols and contracts in regard to issues of social structure, control and governance.
  • How computational law systems potentially alter the relation between the law, the state and the citizen.
  • The delegation of legal process onto algorithms, i.e. automated contracts.
  • The delegation of legal reasoning to algorithms, i.e. forms of automated risk assessment or verification, identifying valid targets in robotic warfare.
  • The algorithm as a form of legal ‘thinking’ or genre of legal writing.
  • What the limits of computational law might be, how do law and computation fail one another?

750 word abstracts should be emailed to sos01sy (at) by 31st August 2016.
Any queries can be addressed to Simon Yuill at sos01sy (at)

Abstracts will be reviewed by the Computational Culture Editorial Board and the special issue editor. Authors of selected abstracts will be notified by 30th September 2016 and invited to submit full manuscripts by 1st March 2017. These manuscripts are subject to full blind peer review according to Computational Culture’s policies. The issue will be published in May 2017.

Computational Culture is an online open-access peer-reviewed journal of inter-disciplinary enquiry into the nature of cultural computational objects, practices, processes and structures.




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