Law in the Age of Algorithms: Interdisciplinary Investigations

Algorithmic technologies play an ever-larger role in human life. Whether it is online platforms seeking to combat hate speech, employers searching for job candidates or public officials trying to optimize efficient resource allocation: human work and human decision-making, increasingly, are supported, reshaped or even entirely replaced by algorithmic decision-making systems.

The course “Law in the Age of Algorithms: Interdisciplinary Investigations” will introduce students with backgrounds in law, the social sciences or informatics to different academic perspectives on the novel political and regulatory issues which these technological transformations entail.


Course periodJuly 25, 2022 - Aug. 19, 2022 Session II
Category Law & Economics
Course levelsBachelor
LanguageEnglish
Class size

max. 15 participants

Credits and certificate

Participants will receive 5 ECTS credit points and a certificate if they attend regularly (at least 80% attendance) and participate actively. Additionally, six weeks after the end of the course a Transcript of Records is issued by Humboldt-University.

Application deadline May 15, 2022, or when participant quota is reached
Course fee730.00 Euro | (excl. program fee and discounts)
Description

Algorithmic technologies mediate ever larger parts of our social relations. Whether it is online platforms seeking to combat hate speech, employers searching for job candidates or public officials trying to optimize efficient resource allocation: human work and human decision-making, increasingly, are supported, reshaped or even entirely replaced by algorithmic decision-making systems.

The course “Law in the Age of Algorithms: Interdisciplinary Investigations” will introduce students with backgrounds in law, the social sciences or informatics to different academic perspectives on the novel political and regulatory issues which these technological transformations entail. The course will proceed in three steps:

1) Foundations: The logics of algorithmic computation

In a first step, the course will introduce students to the methods and modes of operation of current algorithmic technologies. What is an algorithm and how do current computational methods (specifically different forms of Machine Learning) differ from more conventional programming? How do algorithms mediate the world and how do these representations differ from human meaning-making? Can algorithms really „outperform“ humans and what cognitive limitations do they usually incur? How are processes of algorithmic design organized and how do specific workflows benefit the resulting product?

Students will investigate these questions through introductory literature from the Computer Sciences, insights into the work of programmers and hands-on experiments with creating their own coded solutions.

2) Context: How algorithms shift political conflicts

In the course’s second section, students will learn about the ways in which algorithmic technologies change political dynamics. How do algorithmic technologies reframe political conflicts? Which actors benefit from their employment? What are people calling for when they demand “explainable“, „responsible“, “accountable” or “fair AI”? What strategies exist to further democratic participation in the development and implementation of algorithmic systems? And in which ways can algorithms be described as political themselves?

Students will be introduced to these topics through literature from the political sciences and STS, explorative research methods (e.g. twitter case studies) and exchange with policy organisations.

3) Focus: Algorithmic regulation and the role of law

In the course’s third and final section, students will get a deeper look at specific regulatory issues and the different ways in which law can be used to address societal issues raised by algorithmic automation. What areas of law affect the design and use of algorithms and what are their potentials and limitations? What broader regulatory strategies exist to counter the dangers and harms provoked by algorithmic systems? Can legal decisions be automated and are such developments desirable from a legal and political point of view?

Next to an introduction into the most important current legislative proposal on AI regulation and the EU’s Digital Service Act, students will be able to choose whether they want to focus on particular regulatory issues (e.g. algorithmic content moderation on online platforms, use of algorithms in social service resource allocation, liability of algorithms) or on more structural areas of concern (e.g. algorithmic discrimination, explainable AI, fair AI). Reading and response sessions will be combined with assignments to engage in proactive legal interventions for instance through contributing to ongoing EU public consultation processes or filing a complaint for a domestic Data Protection Authority.

Throughout the course’s timeline, students will have several possibilities to exchange with experts from the different academic fields as well as with IT, political and legal practitioners. In an effort to harness the potential of diverse perspectives, the course is committed to fostering an inclusive and creative intellectual environment open for all.

Syllabus will be available soon
Course structure

Academic lessons

  • You will receive a total of 45 contact hours (one contact hour equals 45 minutes; 11 contact hours per week).
  • The lessons are held three times a week.
  • Lessons will comprise lectures, group work, discussion sessions, excursions.

 

Schedule (Track C)

 

Tuesday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.30 pm – 5 pm
Wednesday: 1.30 pm – 3 pm & 3.30 pm – 5 pm
Friday: 9 am – 10.30 am & 11.00 am – 11.45 am

 

Cultural extra-curricular activities:

HUWISU offers a fine selection of interesting extra-curricular activities and aims to give all participants an unforgettable stay in Berlin. Your program includes excursions, sport activities and social gatherings providing you the opportunity to get to know the city, the university and your classmates better and to meet students from all parts of the world. The costs for these offers are included in the course fees.

Activities and tours we offer regularly: Federal Chancellery, German Parliament, House of Representatives, Topography of Terror, Political Archive, Museum Island, Kreuzberg Tour, Daytrip to Potsdam, Boat trip, Beach Volleyball, Exhibitions, Farewell Party…

Language skills English: B2
Motivation Letter about one page in English
Student Profile

Undergraduate students of with an interest in the subject of the course.

This course is taught in English, including readings in English. For the understanding of the texts and the discussions in class a language level B2 (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) is required.

The minimum age requirement is 18 years.

Mr. Paul Friedl, LL.M. (EUI)

Paul Friedl, LL.M. (EUI) is a Ph.D. student and research assistant at the DynamInt graduate school at Humboldt Law School Berlin. His research interests lie mainly in legal theory, information law and law and technology more broadly. He has studied law in Munich, Berlin, Rome and Florence.

Ms. Rita Jordan, M.A.

Rita Jordan, M.A. works as a research assistant at ScaDS.AI Dresden/Leipzig and the Chair for Legal and Constitutional Theory with Interdisciplinary Relations at TU Dresden. Her work focuses on the intersections of law, political theory and technology. She has studied European studies, law and political science in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Dresden and Vienna.

CoordinatorPierre Steuer/ Carmen Opolski/ Sanja Müssig
Contact detailsInternational Department
Unter den Linden 6
10999 Berlin
Germany

huwisu@hu-berlin.de

This course can be combined with: