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LawCulture: Policy in the form of a Comic Strip. Why not? September 27, 2006

Posted by James G. Milles in Documentary, Independent media, Podcasting.
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Some of you have no doubt already seen “Bound by Law?“–the excellent comic book on copyright and fair use produced by law professors Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins and distributed through the Duke Center for the Study of the Public Domain.  Jessica Silbey writes at LawCulture: Policy in the form of a Comic Strip. Why not?

This got me to thinking more about various forms a law review article could take other than the predictable one symbolized by the “road map paragraph.”  There has been plenty of blog traffic on the variety of legal scholarship (what’s in, what’s out, what counts, what doesn’t, see here and here and here, to link to only a few). But what about thinking more deeply about why we do legal scholarship. Who are we trying to reach with our arguments? Are we trying to reach an audience at all? Assuming we are, why not tailor our arguments for those readers? Other academics? Judges? Lawyers? Elected officials? Certainly, sometimes that means aiming to publish in the top journals in a fairly conventional way. But sometimes that might mean making a comic book; it might mean making a short documentary; it might mean creating podcasts; it might  mean writing across the disciplines; it might mean writing novels. There are some law professors who are more actively engaged in a popular journalistic enterprise and some who are novelists. Aoki et al are the first law professor comic book creators that I know of. Any filmmakers out there? Visual media seems the natural evolution of things, but that may be my own bias.  (Emphasis added.)

Independent film distribution through Amazon September 27, 2006

Posted by James G. Milles in Digital distribution, Independent media.
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By way of a posting on Denise Howell’s Bag & Baggage blog, I’ve just learned that Amazon has apparently purchased a CD- and DVD-duplicating company called CustomFlix to offer custom distribution of CDs and DVDs on demand.

Videotapes and audio CDs are professionally digitized, and the resulting files are stored in the CustomFlix Future-Proof Archive™ service, a secure storage and formatting platform that allows content to be repurposed into future digital formats. The Future-Proof Archive™ service supports audio CD, DVD-Video, and WMV-HD DVD. Upcoming support for HD DVD and Blu-ray has already been announced, with additional formats coming in the future.

The CustomFlix Disc on Demand service enables content in the Future-Proof Archive to be manufactured as DVDs or CDs and shipped directly to customers as they order. Customers receive professional-quality DVDs in overwrapped, Amaray-style cases and/or professional-quality CDs in overwrapped jewel cases with full-color covers and lacquer-coated disc faces. Inventory-free fulfillment means more selection for customers and lower costs and risks for content owners.

The website says that distribution through digital downloads is coming soon.

Conference: Legal Evidence Visualized September 18, 2006

Posted by James G. Milles in Cognitive studies, Evidence.
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Cardozo School of Law will host a conference on

Graphic and Visual Representations of Evidence and Inference in Legal Settings

Dates: January 28-29, 2007.

Venue: Cardozo Law School, Yeshiva University, 55 Fifth Avenue (5th Ave. & 12th St.), New York (Manhattan), New York
Description of conference:

One of the largest problems faced by criminal investigators, litigators, paralegals, triers of fact, and others interested in disputes about factual questions in legal settings is the sheer mass of evidence available. It is often difficult to remember, retrieve, and interpret voluminous evidential information, and important relationships and inconsistencies may go unnoticed as a result. Tools that support the storage, retrieval, and interpretation of large masses of evidence would therefore be of great use.

Psychological studies have shown that people’s ability to remember, retrieve, and interpret information is greatly enhanced when they organize it in a way that is meaningful to them. Scholars of the law of evidence have long suggested that graphical representations of evidential arguments and inferences could help people make sense of masses of evidence. As early as 1913, John Henry Wigmore claimed that his charting method promotes rational thinking about legal evidence. Wigmore had only pencil and paper to draw his cumbersome graphs. Today computer software may make it possible for almost anyone to construct useful graphical representations of arguments and inferences related to large collections of evidence. If such software were combined with with existing database, document management, and search technology, documentary evidence could be stored and retrieved in accordance with the user’s view of a case. This would facilitate the transfer of a case file from one person to another because it would make it easier for recipients of files to grasp the signficance of the evidentiary details of a case.

Software for graphical representation of evidential argument is currently being investigated for use in various domains. Argument visualization software has been designed, for instance, to support the teaching of scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills (e.g., Belvedere, Reasonable, Araucaria, Convince Me), to support intelligence analysis, and to facilitate individual or collaborative problem solving (e.g., Questmap, SEAS). Moreover, current artificial intelligence research offers precise accounts of evidential reasoning and thus provides a clear semantics of graphical notations as well as computational methods.

In the legal domain, fact investigators and litigators increasingly use software that supports the storage and retrieval of information in terms of conceptual and relational networks (e.g., Holmes 2, Analyst’s Notebook). As yet, however, as yet, such tools offer little or no support for structuring thinking about information: existing software allows users to store evidentiary data in terms of events, objects, actors, and the relations among these things, but it does not allow users to represent how such data support or undermine factual hypotheses.

This interdisciplinary conference brings together scholars and practitioners from fields such as law, philosophy, computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and linguistics. The following topics and issues will be addressed:

  • New and current graphical means for visualization of factual inference and proof.
  • Semantics of graphical notations: what are the underlying theories of evidential reasoning, including jurisprudential, philosophical, psychological, rhetorical, logical, and mathematical theories?
  • Software tools that are currently available or under development for graphical representation of factual inference and proof.
  • Potential contexts for the use of such software (e.g., criminal investigation, intelligence analysis, trials, and law teaching).
  • Can graphical representation of evidential argument support automatic evaluation of hypotheses?
  • How can current insights into human-computer interactuions be exploited to increase the usefulness of such software; e.g., how can visual complexity generated by large masses of evidence be managed?
  • Are there pertinent empirical studies and findings about real-world use of evidence-charting methods in legal and other contexts?

Conference officials:

  • Peter Tillers (Cardozo Law School): Conference chair; e-mail address: peter@tillers.net
  • Henry Prakken (Universiteit Utrecht / University of Groningen): Program chair; e-mail address: henry@cs.uu.nl
  • Thomas D. Cobb (University of Washington, Seattle): Deputy program chair; e-mail address: tomcobb@u.washington.edu
  • Jonathan Gottfried: Local arrangements coordinator; e-mail address: jgottfried@pobox.com

Prisoners of Katrina September 7, 2006

Posted by James G. Milles in Digital distribution, Documentary.
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Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise links to a BBC documentary, Prisoners of Katrina, available online in full via Google Video. Here is the description at the Google Video site:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while thousands fled New Orleans, the city’s prisoners were trapped. Fresh eye-witness accounts reveal what really happened to those left behind, and how crucial forensic evidence was simply washed away.