Software is Scholarship
MIT Computational Law Report (forthcoming 2020)
55 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2020 Last revised: 23 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 21, 2020
This Article provides the first systematic account of software applications as works of scholarship. Software is scholarship to the extent that software functionality is derived from scholarly research, is used as a means to develop scholarship, or is used as a medium to communicate scholarly ideas. Software applications are superior to articles and books for communicating scholarly ideas: software is not limited by the constraints of traditional written works and can communicate using a wide variety of textual components, graphical elements, and programmable interactivity. These software-enabled components significantly enhance the ability to communicate scholarly concepts, arguments, and findings.
This Article identifies four methods that can be used by scholarly software applications to communicate scholarship: appified 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. Scholars should accordingly develop software applications better to communicate their ideas.
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 legaltech applications can qualify as legal scholarship.
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.
Keywords: Digital humanities, software scholarship, interactivity, no code, legaltech, legal technology, data visualization
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