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Regulating Digital Technologies


Course Information

The use of networked, digital technologies has become an integral part of our professional, personal and social lives, and as a consequence, mediated interaction and communication has become a central part of our everyday lives. While this has enriched our lives and made them more efficient, using a new, networked environment also entails that we need to establish novel social practices, learn new rules of etiquette, and develop an understanding of the working of social and technical systems and the consequences these have for social norms and transgressions. Regulating what can and cannot be done in networked technological environments has therefore become a pressing question for regulators and policy makers, for technology developers, for businesses, and for individuals alike. Collectively, we need to define new rules, norms and social codes for the use of digital technologies, and our behavior in the networked environments they facilitate.

In order to come to a proper understanding of the topic of regulation in relation to digital technologies, and the role that law might fulfill in relation to such technologies, we must begin by getting a grip on what we mean by ‘regulation’. The term regulation has gained prominence in recent years in many different (academic) fields, including law, economics and finance, political science and policy making, environmental science etc. In this course we will look at the ways in which a wide variations of strategies for technology regulation are used to steer, guide, limit or promote specific behaviors by governments, institutions, businesses, sectors, and individuals. Regulation via ethics, laws, markets and architecture are discussed. Students will come to understand that as lawyers, policy makers and regulators there is always a variety of different regulatory strategies they can choose from in tackling regulatory challenges, they will come to understand the pros and cons of each, and they will learn to make an informed choice for, and to provided proper argumentative underpinnings for, specific forms of regulation as applied in specific cases.

Regulating technology implies regulating behavior. Special attention will be given to the use of technological means to steer, guide, and regulate individuals’ behavior. This has come to be known as ‘technological influencing’ or ‘regulation by technology’. Technological influencing can take several forms, ranging from nudging and persuading users to follow a certain course of action, to outright ‘techno-regulation’, viz. hard-coding normative or legal codes into technologies to make certain behaviors impossible and stimulate others. By hard-coding rules into digital technologies and networked environments, people and organizations subjected to regulation will automatically comply, rather than being asked to make a choice on whether or not to follow these rules.

Course Requirement

Master Degree


The timetable of this course will be available for students in Blackboard


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard

Examination Method

  • Written exam (80%)

  • Presentations, including reflection report on group cooperation (20%)

Contact information

Programme Coordinator
Ms Patricia Garcia Fernandez
Telephone number: 0031- 71 527 4228