Technological revolutions have had an
unquestionable, if still debatable, impact on culture and
society, perhaps none more so than the written word. In the legal
the rise of literacy and print culture made possible the governing of
large empires, the memorializing of private legal transactions, and the
broad distribution of judicial precedents and legislation. Yet each of
these technologies has its shadow side: written or printed texts easily
become static and the textual practices of the legal profession can
frustrate ordinary citizens, who may be bound by documents whose
implications they scarcely understand.
Paper, Pixels offers an
engaging exploration of the impact of three technological revolutions
on the law. Beginning with the invention of writing, continuing
with the mass production of identical copies of legal texts brought
about by the printing press, and ending with a discussion of computers
and the Internet, Peter M. Tiersma traces the journey of contracts,
wills, statutes, judicial opinions, and other legal texts through the
past and into the future.
Though the ultimate effects of modern
technologies on our legal system remain to be seen, Parchment, Paper,
Pixels offers readers an insightful guide as to how our shifting
of technological literacy have shaped and continue to shape the
practice of law today.
Peter M. Tiersma is professor of law
at Loyola Law School in California. He is the author of Legal Language
and Frisian Reference Grammar
and coauthor of Speaking of Crime:
Language of Criminal Justice.
University of Chicago Press, 2010