Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

How the Law Learns in the Digital Society


Recent court decisions have revealed how the law is frequently under pressure to adjust to novel digital technologies. As legal practice is blind to the factual particularities of the relationship between law and technology, the courts’ efforts to re-stabilize normative expectations of Internet users, in the face of sociotechnical changes caused by computer networks, lack an adequate theoretical classification. Science and technology studies (STS) provide refined knowledge on the interaction between technology and society. Yet, the law and normative structures have remained a stepchild of that branch of interdisciplinary theorizing within the social sciences. Within the legal discipline, media-based theories about the law in the digital environment have conceived computer networks as hybrid sociotechnical constructs. This approach aptly shows how digital media have changed the way individuals experience the world and interact with one another and how the capacity to adjust cognitive behavioral expectations to new developments has become crucial. While the learning of individuals takes center stage, this perspective belittles the relevance of normative expectations and overlooks the law’s learning. How is the law capable of learning under conditions of computer networks and responding to the sociopolitical changes caused by the new technologies? This paper’s aim is to propose a perspective on the law in the digital society that combines STS with legal sociology. An approach based on technical affordances explains how normative behavioral expectations can adjust to changes in the networked environment and how the law learns in the digital society.

Published: 2021-11-08
Pages:12 to 27
Section: Articles
How to Cite
Graber, Christoph B. 2021. “How the Law Learns in the Digital Society”. Law, Technology and Humans 3 (2):12-27.

Author Biography

University of Zurich
Switzerland Switzerland

Christoph B. Graber, Ph.D. (Law), Professor of Law, studied law at the Universities of Bern, St. Gallen and the European University Institute (Florence), received his admission to the bar in Switzerland, a Ph.D. from the European University Institute and his Habilitation from the University of Bern. He holds the Chair for Legal Sociology with particular focus on Media Law at the University of Zurich, Faculty of Law. He is a member of the executive committee of the Executive Master in Art Market Studies at the University of Zurich.

Prior to joining the law faculty at the University of Zurich, he taught at the University of Lucerne, where he was a founding member of the Faculty of Law. He has been a visiting professor/scholar at Georgetown University Law Center, Institute of International Economic Law, University of Wollongong, Faculty of Law, and University of California, Berkeley, Center for the Study of Law and Society. Between 2016 and 2021 he was Faculty Associate at The Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. He teaches in the fields of legal sociology and theory, cyberspace and media law, intellectual property and art law. His main research interests relate to analysing issues of normativity on the internet in relation to technology, intellectual property and freedom of expression and information from a law and society perspective.

Prof. Graber has been a long-time member of the Swiss Federal Arbitration Commission for the Exploitation of Author’s Rights and Neighbouring Rights (2004-2011), a member of the research commission of the Swiss National Science Foundation at the University of Lucerne (2004-2014) and advisor to various branches of the Swiss Government, as well as OECD on legal issues related to IP, trade and culture. He is the author of numerous publications (see separate list), editor of medialex, the Swiss journal of media law (2002-2014), a member of the editorial board of Law, Technology and Humans and of the editorial advisory board of the University of Western Australia Law Review (2012-2019). He was also a member of the board of directors of the Solothurn Film Festival (2009-2017) and of the council of the Centro Giacometti Foundation (2012-2019).

In 2010, Christoph Graber received the Swiss-Academies Award for Transdisciplinary Research (the highest research prize of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, endowed with CHF 75’000.-).

Open Access Journal
ISSN 2652-4074