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Critical Approaches to Technology


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor and tutor: Bernard Keenan
  • Assessment: a 4000-word summative essay (95%) and online participation in group work and discussion (5%)

Module description

What is technology? The question is not as simple as it may appear. Technology is commonly assumed to mean the tools by which humans perform particular ends. It often fades into the background - at least until problems arise. It changes society, yet it is not social. It develops in line with scientific progress, yet it is not merely the domain of scientists and engineers. Philosophers, social scientists and historians have all attempted to answer the question in different ways. Increasingly, lawyers must do so too. In this module, we critically engage with approaches to thinking about technology. This way, technology and its relationship to law can be understood anew.

Indicative module syllabus

    • Persona and Rem: persons and things in classical thought
    • Mastery of the world in the Enlightenment
    • Statistics, risk and population
    • Electrical media and world systems
    • War and progress
    • Revolution and acceleration
    • Cybernetic government
    • Environment and ecology
    • Anthropocene and collapse
    • Law’s writing technology

    Learning objectives

    By the end of this module, you will be able to:

    • understand complex models for conceptualising the relationship between law and technology in systematic and creative ways
    • apply theoretical perspectives autonomously to original legal and empirical research on problems generated by new technologies
    • evaluate the results of contemporary research into these questions and critically engage with the limitations of each
    • critically address a key issue in one of the four areas of the course, or an area that you can persuasively introduce, in the form of an essay.