SLS Conference, Legal Education, Law Teacher Special Issue session

by Paul Maharg on 23/09/2016

This was[1] the first session on Day 2 of the SLS Conference Legal Education section, a session devoted to the Special Issue on Learning/Technology, The Law Teacher, vol 50 issue 1 [paywall], that was published earlier this year, edited by me.  That issue, comprising six papers and discussed on this blog post, was entitled Learning/Technology because I wanted to describe the convergence of and the complex relationship between, learning and digital technologies. I also wanted to mirror Heidegger’s famous linkage of techne/poesis:

techne is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poietic.’  [2]

In one print-block it’s what much of this blog is about, and expresses visually one of the major problems facing the future of learning/technology in law schools:

Techne      ::    Poiesis
Learning   ::   Technology

The print-block expresses the bridge or zeugma between techne and poiesis, learning and technology; the chiasmus between techne & technology and poesis & learning; and looking at it vertically, the fusion of techne & learning, and poiesis & technology.  At first glance nothing would seem to be farther from poetry than techne.  And yet in the plenary prior to this session I argued that Heaney’s call to redress poetry involved that (amongst much else) in the redress of legal education: the linking of poiesis and techne, where we needed to bring to educational practice and theory the poetic qualities of dwelling upon thereness and upon being, and to do that in part by using techne to enhance the phenomenological process of learning.  Indeed it’s difficult to envisage any educational process that contains no techne.  Just standing talking in a room is to be surrounded by technology: the room design, its effects on communication and process, our awareness of materials, the age of design and build, the room’s place in the building, its place in a physical milieu, a campus, a neighbourhood, our clothes, the phone on my hip, how I travelled to the room, and much much else.  And language itself could be regarded as a technology, particularly the sophisticated, situated lexis and the contexts of education and law that come together in legal education.

But for Heidegger techne is not the same as technology: it encompasses much more than we commonly understand by our word ‘technology’.  In his essay ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’ he writes:

To the Greeks techne means neither art nor handicraft but rather: to make something appear, within what is present, as this or that, in this way or that way.  The Greeks conceive of techne, producing, in terms of letting appear.  Techne thus conceived has been concealed in the tectonics of architecture since ancient times.  Of late it still remains concealed, and more resolutely, in the technology of power machinery.[3]

Heidegger’s mistrust of technology goes beyond early modern equivocation, which appears as early as the work of Adam Ferguson, for whom the industrialization of Scotland, even in the mid-eighteenth-century, brought with it major and perplexing social and economic problems, and new and troubling ways of understanding the world.  But Heidegger was one of the first writers to take seriously the position that we cannot do without technology, that we possibly never could, not even in pre-history, but that in its industrial phase and beyond, we need a fundamental revision of our relationship to it.  Digital technologies, I’d argue, increase the urgency to find answers to the question concerning technology and its relationship to techne, poiesis and episteme – something I’m exploring in a chapter in a book I’m writing on legal education.

Paper titles and abstracts below, and of course full-text of papers at The Law Teacher site, above.  Four authors presented – Craig Newbery-Jones, Emily Allbon, Craig Collins, me.  The other two in the Special Issue, Dan Jackson (Northeastern U, USA) and Kris Greaves (Deakin U, Australia), couldn’t make it along.

It was a good session.  I was interested to hear that what Craig, Emily and Craig presented were versions of their papers, each subtly different in a number of ways.  This was exactly as it needed to be, each paper lasting only 15 mins or so, and for a generalist audience.  I think we all enjoyed the session.  Session is the right word – there was something of a musical jam about it.  We knew the themes, the ground, 12-bar blues, Folia variations, whatever.   We took them up from each other and gave different variations to the ground. We might hold an Australian version at PEARL.[4]  We really ought to go on the road with it.  And talking of which, when did you last attend an SLS session that began with Heidegger and ended with the Grateful Dead?[5]



Ethical Experiments with the D-Pad: Exploring the Potential of Video Games as a Phenomenological Tool for Experiential Legal Education.
Craig Newbery-Jones, Plymouth University

In contemporary society, video games have become a ubiquitous cultural medium, a popular pastime rivalling television and cinema. While many preconceptions exist about the audience of these sources, often perpetuated by stereotypes around ‘gamer’ culture, recent surveys have shown their wide-ranging demographic. Additionally, the masculine gender bias that is perceived to exist within gaming communities has been shown to be rapidly decreasing. This emerging universality has inevitably encouraged educationalists to consider how best to utilise gaming and elements of video game technology in the development of e-learning tools. Alongside their audio-visual features, it is the experiential and phenomenological characteristics of video games that can be employed to allow students to conceptualise abstract principles and actively experiment with their own ethical beliefs in an environment free of real-world consequences. Building upon the work of Maharg and Owen, and Lettieri et al, this paper will explore the potential of video games as a tool for experiential learning, specifically the study of ethics and related jurisprudential themes, and will propose how existing video games can be used as an educational tool for phenomenological experimentation of concepts. Finally, this article will draw upon the author’s previous work to assert how video games can be used as a learning tool for the conceptualisation of abstract themes, specifically justice.


Seeing is Believing: We are All Converging
Emily Allbon, City University

In a country (the UK) where huge personal investment is required to undertake legal education and training, it is right that an ever-increasing emphasis is placed on student satisfaction. Keeping students engaged is a key priority for universities and technology has a large role to play in this, whether in the context of face-to-face, wholly online or blended learning. The debate around where the line is drawn between engagement and entertainment rumbles on. Challenges exist in relation to information/digital and multimodal literacies, but there is much scope for innovation in teaching and learning thanks to emerging technologies. The article looks at ways in which those teaching in law could be inspired by other disciplines and methodologies; embedding literacies commonly dealt with outside of the faculty, by librarians, technologists and designers within their curriculum.


Story Interface and Strategic Design for New Law Curricula.
Craig Collins, ANU

This article argues for the essential value of stories and strategic thinking in crafting new law curricula – the re-imagination of which is compelled by the rise of information technology and the virtual age. In canvassing the stuff of curriculum, it argues for the restoration of the notion of law as a community of discourse, rather than as a body of rules and content. It highlights the Ramist influence giving rise to the conventional notion of curriculum and its emergence in concert with printing press technology. This influence, in turn, spawned the centrality of the textbook to university education. A new notion of curriculum is proposed as something emerging in concert with cyberspace, framing a journey of personal transformation, a process of initiation or a rite of passage. Strategic design is then identified as the kind of thinking necessary for crafting new law curricula, with observations about some of the central opportunities and constraints presented by the virtual age. Finally, the notion of ‘story interface’ is proposed, drawing upon Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and hero’s journey for supporting students through their initiation into the discipline. Such initiation clothes students with a new identity and a developed capability for serving not only the community of legal discourse, but the stablising core of democratic society at large.


Paul Maharg

Disintermediation is a concept well-understood in almost all industries.  At its simplest, it refers to the process by which intermediaries in a supply chain are eliminated, most often by digital re-engineering of process and workflow.  It can often result in streamlined processes that appear more customer-focused.  It can also result in the destruction of almost entire industries and occupations, and the re-design of almost every aspect of customer and client-facing activity.  To date, legal education in particular has not given much attention to the process.  In this article I explore some of the theory that has been constructed around the concept.  I then examine some of the consequences that disintermediation is having upon our teaching and learning, and on our research on legal education, as part of the general landscape of digital media churn; evaluate its effects, and show how we might use aspects of it in two case studies that are, effectively, versions of the future of legal education.

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