Københavns Universitet
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Vulnerability and Discontent in Law and Technology (… and Beyond?)

Seminar — A growing sense of unease permeates our technologically-driven times. That something eerie might be unfolding. The world feels weird somehow. Why might that be? What might it reveal? Why might we want to pay attention? What might we hope to learn? What does this have to do with law, regulation, and governance? Join us for this open-ended exploration into the potential problem-space!


Date & Time:

University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law, Justitia meeting room (Meeting box) 7A.2.04, 2nd floor, South Campus, Njalsgade 76, DK-2300 Copenhagen S

Hosted by:
CECS - Centre for European and Comparative Legal Studies



There is growing dissatisfaction with the law, as a normative approach to regulating human behaviour, that is driven or revealed by the growing suite of new and emerging technologies. While conventionally framed as the ‘pacing problem’, it seems as though something else, something different, is taking place other than merely a question of playing catch-up. There is a sense that the law and legal processes are becoming increasingly irrelevant when it comes to shaping human behaviour. The law feels out-moded and out-gunned in terms of: what it aspires to achieve; the principles and processes it mobilises; what it represents; what it is capable of achieving; what it recognises as problems; the potential avenues of possible and plausible responses. There are certainly many other reasons too why the law now feels quaint, of a relic of a by-gone and simpler time…

Two ways in which this growing dissatisfaction has been expressed are through the conceptual framings of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘discontent’. Fortunately, we have Gianclaudio Malgieri (author of ‘Vulnerability and Data Protection Law’) and Roger Brownsword (author of ‘Technology, Humans, and Discontent with Law’) to help guide us through these issues.

New technologies and the shifting affordances that then engender threaten to create, reveal, or exacerbate vulnerabilities. Insofar as that might be true, the law will be, become, or be experienced as, inadequate. There will be shortcomings between expectations and realities, between threats and protections, and presumably between a lot of other things too. Might this sense of increasing vulnerability hold lessons about what is important: about what we actually value, and why? And shed light as to why we feel exposed, even precarious in this emerging world?

Yet, shifting vulnerabilities might be only one driver behind a growing discontent with the law. In our technologically-driven age, and with increased scientific insights, the law’s principles and processes now appear as ham-fisted. The law feels clunky both as a way of modelling the world, human beings, and their complex interactions, and appears awkward in its responses to increasingly nuanced,  sophisticated, and global challenges. What might this feeling of discontent with the law tell us about how we might regulate human behaviour into the future?

While the feelings of vulnerability and discontent might be evident at the nexus between law and technology, this is not ‘the only thing’ that’s happening at the moment. If we take what we learn from thinking about vulnerability and discontent at the interface between law and technology… and apply it to other areas, what happens? Might we sense vulnerability and discontent in law and… (climate change, ecological collapse, international conflict, economic precarity,…)? Might taking these questions into other areas then boomerang lessons back for how we think about law and technology: the types of expectations and demands that we might make or withdraw from the law. Might we also need to acknowledge and lay to rest certain unfulfilled promises that the law once held, but which now are fading fast?