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Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context

How can digital technologies help us to improve the way we communicate?

Today’s interconnected world presents communications challenges that overwhelm even the experts. Professor Annelise Riles shed light on this when she gave the 2018 Cotterrell Lecture in Sociological Jurisprudence at Queen Mary University of London where she discussed Meridian 180, a platform for policy solutions and experimentation.


Social media has transformed the way we communicate. The emergence of digital political citizenship in particular, once heralded as the engine of democratisation, has paradoxically led to an inward-looking turn in social life.

Breaking down barriers

Issues such as migration, inequality, climate change and data governance are global complexities and whilst there is a wealth of expertise on these topics, many work in silos, often dominated by western perspectives, largely conducted in English.

Annelise Riles, Professor of Law at Northwestern University, was chosen to deliver the 2018 Cotterrell Lecture in Sociological Jurisprudence at Queen Mary where she discussed her latest work which aims to provide a solution to these communications challenges.

A new platform

Professor Riles is the founder and director of Meridian 180, a transnational online platform for policy solutions. The platform is an attempt to bring a different sensibility to the digital public sphere. The platform also aims to break down the idea of what is ‘foreign’ whether it is another discipline, another language, another country or another political point of view.

The platform brings academics from different disciplines together, often with disparate views, allowing them the opportunity to engage and embark on meaningful collaborations. Members of Meridian 180 represent a range of professions from 29 countries and more than 380 professional affiliations.

Members interact through multilingual exchange, across different sectors to identify gaps in research and response, in areas where response is critically needed.

“I have been staging an experiment in engaging and collaborating with the Platform as a way both to understand and engage the politics of the moment,” said Professor Riles. During the lecture the emergence of friendship as an object and outcome of the platform was also discussed.

“Perhaps in the marketing of friendship, Facebook and its peers are in fact onto something; perhaps friendship is in fact what remains and sustains after the failure of states and of knowledge alike.” 

Dr Maks Del Mar, Founding Director of the Centre for Law and Society in a Global Context, and organiser of the Cotterrell Lecture series, said: “Professor Riles’ research is emblematic of the work and vision of our research centre: inter-disciplinary and experimental, linking both past and present and local and global.

“One of the more particular aims of the Cotterrell Lecture series is to shed the spotlight on how social dynamics are changing, in part as a result of technological change, and to consider what this means for law, morality and politics. More concretely, Professor Riles’ lecture connects to a project the Centre is currently developing on ‘Algorithmic Citizenship’, where we will bring together scholars from a variety of disciplinary fields to examine the relations between politics, aesthetics and technology.”  

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