Law as culture:
A digital Project

Kate Hamburer Kolleg_Bonn

Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Universität Bonn.

Le centre de recherches Law as Culture de l’Université de Bonn a été créé il a dix ans dans le but de situer le droit dans sa dimension culturelle. Ce projet de recherche se situe au carrefour des humanités numériques, du droit, de la muséographie et des lieux de connaissance (bibliothèques, archives). Il vise à développer un outil numérique pour collecter et organiser les données produites par le Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities dans le domaine académique afin qu’elles puissent être utilisées par les opérateurs culturels et atteindre un public plus large.

Recht als Kultur

Käte Hamburger Kolleg „Recht als Kultur“
Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung
Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”
Konrad-Zuse-Platz 1-3, 53227 Bonn


Law as culture: A digital Project.


This research project is situated at the crossroads of digital humanities, law, museography, and places of knowledge (libraries, archives).

It aims to develop a digital tool to collect and organize the data produced by The Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities so that it can be used by cultural operators and reach a wider audience.

The work initiated and produced by The Käte Hamburger Center, based on the paradigm “Law as Culture,” has created a new path in the field of “Humanities,” through the desire to embrace a vast field, both in terms of the geographical areas considered and the types of knowledge implemented.

One of the original features of The Käte Hamburger Center’s programme was to take into account, from the outset, the aesthetic forms of knowledge. In addition to researchers, a workshop was held to welcome an artist among the fellows during each promotion.

It must be noted that, despite this bold approach by The Käte Hamburger Center, the paradigm of “Law as Culture” has not affected cultural places (Museum, Kunsthalle) or places of knowledge (libraries, archives centers).

It, therefore, seems imperative to undertake work that allows those responsible for and organizers of cultural events to grasp this paradigm and develop projects that can reach an audience beyond the academic sphere.

The field of Digital Humanities has developed considerably over the past ten years because it brings into question the conditions for the production and dissemination of knowledge. It does not merely record or comment on knowledge but reflects on its dissemination by ensuring that it is “formatted” and mapped.

In recent years, several projects have tried to “visualize” research data in order to better communicate them and to bring out new meanings that make it possible to find new fields of application. One of the most spectacular projects is the “Venice Time Machine” project developed by the Laboratory of Digital Humanities at the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne. This project aims to extract data from 80 kilometers of archives held in Venice in order to connect them to build new networks – human, economic, sociological, architectural.

In this spirit, it is necessary to work on the current data collected by The Käte Hamburger Center, through the study days organized and the results obtained by the fellows. It is imperative to establish an inventory of what has been done at the Center and to “translate” the progress of each project, in order to create a digital platform that can make this data available. It is not a question of building a website to advertise the Center, but of devising a data exchange module that will enable cultural operators to design innovative projects based on the paradigm of Law as Culture.

The purpose of this research project is, therefore, to analyze the Center’s production while establishing a state of international research in the field

The research project will follow the breakdown proposed in Werner Gephart’s 2012 note and the four research axes:

  1. Subject Area I: Law and Religion
    2.   Subject Area II: Law and Globalization
    3.   Subject Area III: Genesis, Hybridization, and Conflicts of Legal Cultures
    4.   Subject Area IV: Cultural Forms of Law: Literature, Film, Architecture

The work, in a second phase, will consist in formalizing the models for the use of these data by cultural operators. For data to be usable, it is necessary to consider both the exploitation that can be made of it and what is now called the user experience. Too many cultural projects are thought of without thinking about this last aspect, which explains the low impact of these projects, outside their captive audience.

The aim is to introduce into the field of “humanities” two concepts that are well known in the industrial field: interaction design and user experience. Two fields of design application that combine digital technologies, objects, services, and spaces. Historically, it was Bill Moggridge who in the late 1980s thought of the notion of “interaction design” to think of the evolution of industrial design applied to software objects, while the term “user experience” was introduced by Donald Norman in the mid-1990s, within the Apple universe.

What these developments teach us is that it is not enough to design beautiful or useful objects, but that it is necessary to establish the possibilities of interaction with this object — applied to our research project this consists in imagining the possibilities of exploiting the research carried out in the cultural field around us.

The project to invite artists had been conceived in part with the former director of the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Professor Dr. Dieter Ronte. In a way, it is now perhaps time to rethink the project and ask ourselves what people in the art world can do today to benefit from the work done since The Käte Hamburger Center’s creation. In short, to open the Centre to the city.

This research project does not aim to transmit knowledge but to imagine the conditions for a dialogue with it. Here we abandon the vision of the researcher (the “design genius”), to focus on the interaction of the product of his research with the users.

The work consists in focusing out the research carried out, the vision, the data, and their coherence in order to share them. The project is similar to a reflection often carried out in the field of museography which consists, once the subject and the idea of a project have been decided, in confronting them with the time of the story and that of space.

This is precisely the challenge of this research project, to add the dimension of space (physical or virtual) to that of concepts.


September 2019 — September 2020.