Computational Social Science and its Potential Impact upon Law

Nicola Lettieri, Sebastiano Faro

Abstract


Over the past decades, social sciences have gradually learned to use quantitative methods and computational tools. According to the emerging paradigm of  so called “computational social science” (CSS), the study of social phenomena is more and more often identified with the use of statistical and analytical tools, with data mining techniques and with the construction of simulation models, in other words, with computation.

Law has substantially fallen behind in exploiting the methodological and scientific outcomes of CSS research. The ongoing change though should involve legal culture for at least two reasons. Firstly, the making, interpretation and application of legal rules conceived to regulate social life cannot ignore the scientific knowledge and methodologies illuminating social dynamics at both individual and collective level. Secondly, CSS are going to provide lawyers with methods and tools offering new scientific basis to their findings and their concrete choices in applying and interpreting law.

The goal of the paper is twofold: on the one hand, to present CSS and discuss, in general terms, how it can positively influence law, offering to lawyers new tools and approaches for addressing legal problems; on the other hand, to focus on one of the most interesting research sectors that can take advantage from CSS approaches: the study of support methodologies and tools for policy making.

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