Law in Contemporary Society

Professor Eben Moglen
Columbia Law School, Spring 2021

This course will begin Thursday 14 January, a fictional Monday. We will not meet Monday 18 January. In preparation for the first class, please:

  1. Register to use the wiki ;
  2. Read about VirtualInstruction and WhyNotVideoConferencing. Read the EvaluationPolicy;
  3. Sign up to be notified of changes here by email, or subscribe to the news feed;
  4. Read all of the wiki introduction on this page and learn how to refer to the wiki documentation in the TWiki web. Use your personal Sandbox to experiment as necessary. You must be able to write here confidently.
  5. Learn about DejaVu, and acquire viewer software for your computers and personal tracking devices;
  6. Create your StudentJournal.
  7. Read the CourseIntroduction or listen to the audio trailer.
  8. Listen to the class audio.

You should be prepared to ask at least one question at the first class meeting, which will be held on our Etherpad.

For the second meeting on 20 January, please read Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Path of the Law (1897).

My office hours beginning 20 January are Mondays 4:30pm-6pm and Wednesdays 3:30-5:30pm, via Etherpad or video conference.

Additional hours for small group discussion, both by video-conference and outdoors in Riverside Park for local students, will be available beginning February 1 on a weekly sign-up basis.

If you need an appointment outside these modes, please write, or consult my assistant, Jerrica Sosa, at 212-461-1905.

On the Radar

Ed Pilkington and Ankita Rao, A tale of two New Yorks: pandemic lays bare a city's shocking inequities, The Guardian, April 10, 2020

Shaun Nichols, Yeah, that Zoom app you're trusting with work chatter? It lives with 'vampires feeding on the blood of human data', The Register, March 27, 2020

A Word on Technology Old and New About the Word

This course is centered in the experience of classroom dialogue. Everything we read and write will be intended to help us understand better what we learn from listening to one another. I say "listening," because in a conversation with so many voices, we're all going to be listening much more than we are talking. So this is an extended exercise in active listening.

It turns out that wiki is a very good medium for active listeners. Below you will find an introduction to this particular wiki, or TWiki, where you can learn as much or as little about how this technology works as you want.

For now, the most important thing is just that any page of the wiki has an edit button, and your work in the course consists of writings that we will collaboratively produce here. You can make new pages, edit existing pages, attach files to any page, add links, leave comments in the comment boxes--whatever in your opinion adds to a richer dialog. During the semester I will assign writing exercises, which will also be posted here. All of everyone's work contributes to a larger and more informative whole, which is what our conversation is informed by, and helps us to understand. This is a law school course, so one cannot prevent altogether the stupidity of grades.

Please begin by registering. I look forward to seeing you at our first meeting.

Introduction to the LawContempSoc Web

The LawContempSoc site is a collaborative class space built on Twiki [], a free software wiki system. If this is your first time using a wiki for a long term project, or first time using a wiki at all, you might want to take a minute and look around this site. Every page has a history: all the versions it has accumulated through each person's edits. Use the "History" button at the top of each page to explore that history. When we edit a page, using the "Edit" button, the old version is still part of the history, so editing is additive, not destructive. If you see something on the page that you don't know how to create in a wiki, take a look at the text that produced it using the "Raw" button at the top of each page, and feel free to try anything out in the Sandbox.

All of the Twiki documentation is also right at hand. Follow the TWiki link in the sidebar. There are a number of good tutorials and helpful FAQs there explaining the basics of what a wiki does, how to use Twiki, and how to format text.

From TWiki's point of view, this course, Law in Contemporary Society, is one "web." There are other webs here: the sandbox for trying wiki experiments, for example, and my other courses, etc. You're welcome to look around in those webs too, of course. Below are some useful tools for dealing with this particular web of ours. You can see the list of recent changes, and you can arrange to be notified of changes, either by email or by RSS feed. I would strongly recommend that you sign up for one or another form of notification; if not, it is your responsibility to keep abreast of the changes yourself.

LawContempSoc Web Utilities