Software is Scholarship
MIT Computational Law Report (Nov. 2020)
61 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020 Last revised: 27 Mar 2021
Date Written: November 20, 2020
This Article provides the first systematic account and justification of software applications as works of scholarship. Software is scholarship to the extent that software functionality is derived from scholarly research, software is used as a means to develop scholarship, or software is used as a medium to communicate scholarly ideas. Software applications are superior to articles and books for communicating scholarly ideas because software is not limited by the constraints of traditional written works. Software can communicate using a wide variety of textual components, graphical elements, and programmable interactivity that significantly enhance the ability to communicate scholarly concepts, arguments, and findings.
This Article identifies four methods for software applications to enhance scholarly communication: app-ified argumentation that provides theoretical clarity, interactive toolkits that create rich qualitative studies, data visualizations that persuade using data, and policy tech that improves the ability to enact social change. Interactive software applications can enhance research agendas in the humanities and social sciences by making traditional, prose scholarship more thorough, persuasive, and analytically precise. Due to recent innovations, developing software for scholarly purposes is accessible to those that work in the humanities. Platforms for developing software have grown so sophisticated that they no longer require creators to write code to develop powerful, data rich, and well-designed interactive applications. Scholars should accordingly use and develop software to better communicate their ideas. By providing a framework for developing software as works of scholarship, this Article contributes to the field of digital humanities.
To better understand this Article’s concept of scholarly software, I apply my conceptualization of scholarly software to legal scholarship and legal technology and discuss three case studies: LegalTech toolkits, voice recognition for automated contract drafting, and court data visualizations. Law is a fertile ground for the development of scholarly software because the core of legal reasoning consists of a formalistic, computational structure that is well-expressed through programmable applications. This Article contributes to legal scholarship by identifying how it can be enhanced through the creation of software applications.
Keywords: Digital humanities, software scholarship, interactivity, no code, legaltech, legal technology, data visualization
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