Law in Contemporary Society

Professor Eben Moglen
Columbia Law School, Spring 2020


As of Thursday 12 March, this class no longer meets in person. Please read VirtualInstruction.


For our last class on April 28, please listen to my talk Die Gedanken Sind Frei, given in Berlin in 2003. You need not stay for the Q&A.


Class audio for Tuesday 28 April can be downloaded here. Please listen first to the overture, and after the talk to the finale.

Audio from prior classes can be found at ClassAudio.


The next online office hour for class discussion will be Tuesday 28 April 1:20-2:30pm EDT. Open online office hours will next be held Wednesday 29 April from 4:30-6pm EDT.


My office hours in spring 2020 are Wednesdays 4:10-5:50pm and Thursdays 10:30-12n and 3-5pm (usually reserved for 1L students), via Etherpad. If you need to see me but cannot make office hours, please email moglen@columbia.edu for an appointment, 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 [twiki.org], 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