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Thomas Giddens
University of Dundee

In witnessing the marks left by design activity—be it on paper or in the built or digital environment, or elsewhere—we are connected and given the conditions of our existence. Visual design maintains a community of subjects who exist and are constituted in relation to it. This is significantly true in relation to the visual design at play in the state legal institution, which—given its prominent place in the constitution and regulation of human and social living and relating—is a key site of the development and maintenance of communal life. On this view, communal life is enabled and sustained through the visual design of legal texts and material inscriptions wrought more broadly. From the design of legal buildings—courts, prisons, parliaments—to the architecture of the visually designed pages of court reports, the impact of law’s visual design upon our world is profound. Indeed, through the work of Jean-Luc Nancy, the way the hermeneutic of law’s visual design operates through the common law to build a community can be encountered. This paper proposes to approach such an encounter, by reflecting on the spatial and design elements at work in the restless flow of the pages of the common law, in particular our contemporary  turn to digital expression, with the judicial text—as material design object, as a shared point of contact between subjects and the ordering power of law—enabling a kind of communal touching of law that sustains the collective life of the community. This paper seeks to connect the small scale design of the page—today captured in a digital form of textual and documentary inscription—to the lawful relations and broader communal organisation of life that is enabled across the longue durée of the common law.

Keywords: law; community; Nancy; typography; judgment; digital inscription.

Thomas Giddens is a critical, comics, and cultural legal scholar with particular interests in aesthetics, visuality, and epistemology. His most recent book is ‘On Comics and Legal Aesthetics’ (Routledge 2018). He is the founding chair of the Graphic Justice Research Alliance.

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