Beyond Law and Technology: Socio-legal approaches to the digital era

13 Jan 2025 to 17 Jan 2025

Course in the Module "New Issues in Socio-Legal Studies" (3 ECTS)

Expanding upon the traditional frameworks of law and technology, this course proposes a socio-legal and critical approach to address the intricate (and conflictive) changes brought about by the digital age. Following a transdisciplinary methodology that cuts across law, critical technology studies and decolonial theory, the course will provide students with tools to understand how the socio-technical systems of the digital age intersect with, amplify, and shape existing and emerging political, economic, and societal power structures. The course will pay particular attention to the materiality of the digital, that is, the range of social and environmental consequences and impacts associated with the rise of technologies such as AI.

In today's world, the relevance of understanding these sociotechnical systems cannot be overstated. They permeate virtually every facet of governance—spanning health, defense, homeland security, education, welfare, and the criminal justice system—while also deeply influencing the private sector, altering our modes of communication, socialization, discovery, and perception of reality. Despite the critical role these systems play, our grasp on how they function, mold our societies, and impact us—for better or worse—is still in its infancy. Yet, we're not entirely in the dark. Both academic and political spheres have started to peel back the layers of this complex issue, recognizing the breadth of its implications. We've come to understand that algorithmic technologies are far from neutral; they are political by design, inherently biased, and at times, deeply racist. We are only beginning to understand and appreciate the enormous ecological impact of digital technologies, dependent on an immense extractivist logistics chain of global dimensions ranging from mega-mining to massive water use. More so, we're waking up to the fact that algorithmic discrimination isn't an error but rather a built-in mechanism that perpetuates a longstanding system of inequality, one that has been legally, technically, quantifiably, and systematically crafting discriminatory lines for centuries.

So why does the line between competition and monopoly, exploitation and freedom, service provision and surveillance, sustainability and environmental devastation, transparency and democratization versus privatization seem so blurred? Digital capitalism has catapulted to the forefront of reshaping our neoliberal societies so rapidly that we've barely had time to catch our breath, let alone fully comprehend the shift. We're starting to get the hang of the basics: algorithms, platforms, AI, gig work, and the likes. Yet, the underlying logic driving behemoths like Palantir, which has infiltrated almost every key police department in the US, or the real implications of Facebook's fact-checking endeavors against far-right rhetoric, or Google-Apple´s dominance in the mobile OS market, remains murky. And what about when algorithms decide on matters as crucial as unemployment benefits, employment statuses, controlling the narratives for billions of users, or even killing people?

These are the kinds of questions we will be asking throughout the course. The intention is not to offer answers, but to provide epistemological and methodological tools with which to address them. The curriculum is divided into two parts, each dedicated to exploring critical issues such as digitised state racism, the digital invasion of education, cyber warfare, digital exploitation and the ecocidal tendencies of digital capitalism.

Teaching Methodology:

The course will adopt a proactive teaching methodology, inspired by Paolo Freire, emphasizing a participatory and interactive learning environment. This approach will facilitate critical thinking and encourage students to draw connections between theoretical knowledge and real-world implications. Students will engage in active discussions, group projects, and case studies, fostering a collaborative learning atmosphere. The course will also integrate multimedia materials, guest lectures, and practical workshops to provide diverse perspectives and hands-on experiences.

Through this methodology, the course aims to not only impart knowledge but also empower students to critically analyze and challenge the prevailing structures and practices in digital capitalism. The goal is to cultivate a generation of thinkers and practitioners who are equipped to address and mitigate the negative impacts of digital capitalism in society.


  1. Introduction to Sociolegal Studies in the Digital Age
    • Overview of the digital age and its sociolegal implications.
    • Automating the Crimes of the Powerful: Understanding the role of digital platforms.
  2. Digitized State Racism and Algorithmic Oppression
    • Exploring the concept of digitized state racism.
    • The impact of automated decision systems on societal structures.
  3. The Digital Take-over of Education
    • Analyzing the implications of digital platforms in educational settings.
    • Political Economy of digital education.
  4. Cyberwarfare Against the People
    • Understanding cyberwarfare and its sociolegal aspects.
    • Mass Surveillance and Preemptive risk: Legal and ethical considerations.
  5. The Materiality of Digital Exploitation
    • Examining the concept of digital exploitation in the context of labor.
    • Algorithmic exploitation and its racial capitalism dimensions.
  6. Digital Capitalist Ecocides
    • Debunking myths around technology and environmentalism.
    • Understanding the ecological footprint of AI
    • Case study on lithium ecocide.
  7. Artificial Intelligence Ethics
    • Exploring ethical considerations in AI development and deployment.
    • The role of AI in societal structures and individual rights.
  8. Conclusion: Platformed Criminals and Regulatory Challenges
    • From Data Harms to Data Crimes: Examining the criminalization of digital platforms.
    • The future of regulating Big Tech: Limits and possibilities.