The first four papers in this issue come out of a project examining the relations between law, culture and things. They inquire into human links with the material world. These links are mediated through technology which, in its many forms, enables humans to fulfil material needs. Tools and their social organisation provide food, clothing, shelter and communication. This deep imbrication with all facets of our lives means that the ways technology is used and organised have profound importance for humanity and the environment. Technologies can be categorised as ‘hard’, involving manufacture and transport; ‘soft’ information and communication technologies; and ‘wet’ technologies of human sustenance, such as food production and preparation. Law regulates or constitutes each of these in one way or another, while it is most often associated with soft technologies used in record-keeping and artificial intelligence. This collection of papers examines the use of soft technology in law, as well as law as a means of directing the uses of technologies that impinge on the natural environment and the human body. These papers explore human and legal relations with technology and nature: legal records and decision-making; food and nutrition at the intersection of law, science and culture; rights of and to land and nature; and human responsibility for the environment and the impact of technology.
The authors of the four papers in this collection would like to acknowledge the contributions of the participants in an earlier discussion of this work at the “Linking Generations for Global Justice” conference of the Research Committee on Sociology of Law in Oñati, Spain on 20 June 2019.