Amsterdam or anywhere, Leicester not Rome… from ALT to SLSA

I’m in the midst of busy bout of conferencing having flown back on Monday evening from two days at the Association of Law Teachers’ Annual Conference in Amsterdam, to drive up to Leicester yesterday morning for the Socio-Legal Studies Association bash, which runs till Thursday at de Montfort University – so four nights away from home broken up by a night at home to empty and re-fill the suitcase… can’t say I find that quite as much fun as I used to!

I’m not doing a paper at SLSA this year, ‘just’ representing UKCLE and managing our display stand, but it will be nice to have an opportunity to sit back and engage with other people’s papers, rather than having to think about my own, especially as there are three legal education panels today and tomorrow, to add to the two legal profession panels I attended yesterday – more about that in a later post.

There were some interesting papers at ALT too, but I was particularly pleased to be part of an innovation: a plenary poster session! The session, which opened the conference on Sunday afternoon was organised by Paul Maharg and Caroline Maughan as part of an ongoing project on legal education and the affective domain. The plan is ultimately to produce a book of essays on this theme, and nine out of about a dozen or so contributors attended. Paul talks about the process and design of the session over at Zeugma. The session seemed to generate a lot of interest – to be honest probably more than I’d expected, which is, of course, very heartening, and would seem to confirm that we are picking up on a significant issue for law teaching. The posters and the discussion which followed also made it even more clear what a potentially massive project (can of worms??) affect is! There are multiple theoretical dimensions, drawing on combinations of psychology, neuro-biology, cognitive science, philosophy, sociology and social theory, and equally a vast array of applications and implications – for specific law subjects, for different stages or aspects of the both the student and the academic experience, plus quite a lot of underlying uncertainty about the scope of affect and the affective domain, and its relationship with emotion, the body, etc. Pulling this collection together will be an interesting challenge. To add to that (and I think if we can do it, it will enhance the quality of the product) Paul and Caroline are keen that draft chapters are shared via a wiki so that all authors can comment on the work in progress, and there might even be scope for collaborative editing/re-writing. As book projects go it is thus developing a very distinctive methodology, as well as some highly original content.


2 responses to “Amsterdam or anywhere, Leicester not Rome… from ALT to SLSA

  1. I suppose one question would be: is the book format the most appropriate form for this kind of discussion? Aren’t you in danger of reducing a 3D concept to 2D? It seems to me you are talking about an interactive process here between authors and commentator and readers. So why should this interaction be frozen at a particular moment in time? Should it be instead a website that can grow through the interaction? Of course there’s the inevitable issue of how you would measure it in the REF.

    • An interesting point, John, and, in fact, we are using a wiki in the writing and development process to try and capture some of that interactivity and creativity, at least between ourselves as a group of authors. Paul Maharg has tried to do what you suggest in the context of his book, Transforming Legal Education, but my sense is that its not been very successful so far. I think the problem lies in part in the academic mindset. On the whole we’re still not used to engaging in this kind of online dialogue, or to allowing our work product to become common property in the way that wikis do when they work at their best. Some of this might just be generational thinking, though certainly reinforced by conservative influences like the RAE/REF (at least in fields like law – I wonder if they have this same concern about the influence of the REF in areas like art and design?). At the same time I think you possibly overstate the limits of the book and the benefits of online writing. It is all still writing. Each contribution is a product of its time, and one of the difficulties with the web is precisely that ideas are often ex tempore in both the sense that they are impromptu, and that they are presented as quite literally out of time, independent of the moment at which they were written. The web is interesting in the way that it can bring a certain amount of the thinking and re-thinking process to the surface (and perhaps change the process itself as it does so), and collect at least some of the thoughts of author and reader in one place. But even though a book is a product of a certain moment of time, it is surely never just of that time. We are still reading Plato and Aristotle and finding things that speak to the human condition in the 21st century. The interaction between author and reader may not be visible but it is still there, and I’d like to think that any book is as “3D” as the imagination of the reader allows it to be!

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