About the course
In business, academia, law and medicine, documents (laws, regulations, guidelines) regulate what practitioners do. Very often, these documents contain vague, indeterminate or context-sensitive language. And when they do, power and personal interest can bend interpretation of the documents away from the purposes the documents were originally supposed to serve. How did the EU Taxonomy come to classify nuclear energy and natural gas as green sources of energy? If it’s not in a university’s interests to recognize the occurrence of sexual harassment, is it any surprise that so few investigations conclude that it happened? If an organization expects its departments to implement policy designed at the top, when very few in those departments “believe in” the policy, is it any surprise that the resulting implementation doesn’t match what the policy makers imagined?
You’ve very probably seen misapplications of documents you work with or study in your own discipline. We invite you to join us in a collective, cross-disciplinary investigation into how the broader contexts of regulatory documents (broadly construed) shape how their users apply and interpret them—sometimes against the intended spirit of such documents. The Summer School brings together administrators, economists, legal theorists, linguists, and philosophers to help participants address questions like the following: how do contextual factors shape how regulations, laws, etc. get interpreted in context? Which contexts are especially prone to generate misapplications of those documents?; and how can we successfully intervene in a context to reduce the risk that the document is misapplied?
Participating students will be placed in skill-complementary teams. Each team will select its own problem-context: a document and context of application. Each team will draw upon case studies presented by participating lecturers to better understand how the chosen context of application may encourage misapplication of the chosen document. Under the supervision of participating lecturers, each team will produce an output of their choice, which allows them to bring their findings back to those who can make most use of them (i.e. those who use the document in the problem context the team studies).
Regulatory documents whose application we’ll treat as case-studies in this course include (but are not restricted to):
- The Diagnostics and Statistical Manual
- The EU Taxonomy
- University Sexual Harassment Complaints Procedures
- Research Ethics Guidelines
Nonetheless, student teams will be able to choose any document and problem-context they wish.
- An improved understanding of how linguistic meaning is constructed both in the interpretation of regulatory documents (laws, guidelines, etc.) and in the flow of conversation wherein the documents are applied.
- An improved understanding of how to intervene to change how regulatory documents are interpreted in context.
- A greater awareness of how other disciplines besides one’s own approach the problem of stabilizing meaning.
- A greater awareness of the role power plays in fixing how communal documents are interpreted.
- An enhanced awareness of the contextual risk factors to the misapplication of laws, guidelines, regulations, etc.
The course breaks down into three components: two online components and one in-person component.
- Preparatory Online Component: In the lead-up to the in-person Summer School, participating students from diverse disciplines, and from institutions across the ENLIGHT network, will be assigned into teams whose members have complementary sets of skills. During June-July 2023, each team will identify a kind of document and context of application that they will research during the Summer School. The teams will also identify an effective means of getting their findings to those who can make use of them: the team’s task, throughout the Summer School, will be to work together to generate this output. This phase will also include some preparatory reading.
- In-person Summer School: The Summer School will take place between 17th and 28th July 2023 in the university town of Tartu, Estonia. The Summer School will primarily consist of workshops on case-studies of misapplied regulatory documents and group-work, where the student teams apply what they learn from the workshops in their respective projects. The Summer School will also include time to travel in Estonia.
- Post-Summer-School Online Component: This component will take place online in August 2023.. The student teams complete their outputs, working together online.
To pass the course, a student must complete (with the team they are a part of) the production of an output that applies what they have learnt from the case-studies presented and studied during the course to the team’s chosen document and problem-context.
- Delia Belleri (Department of Philosophy, Uppsala University)
- William Bülow (Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics, Uppsala University)
- Valeria Cernei (Institute for Science Education and Communication, University of Groningen)
- John Danaher (School of Law, University of Galway)
- Alex Davies (Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu)
- Boudewijn de Bruin (Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, the University of Groningen)
- Jana Declercq (Center for Language and Cognition, University of Groningen)
- Aliis Liin (Legal Counsel, University of Tartu)
- Anneli Lorenz (School of Economics and Business Administration, University of Tartu)
- Lotte van Poppel (Center for Language and Cognition, University of Groningen)