Digisprudence and the design of legitimate code

Laurence’s latest article, “Digisprudence: the design of legitimate code” has been accepted for publication in Law, Innovation and Technology. The article is based on his doctoral work, summarising the broad contours of the theory developed there. You can read the abstract below, and find the open access pre-print here.

Last week the article was very kindly reviewed by Prof. Daithí Mac Síthigh for Jotwell – you can read his thoughts here.


This article introduces digisprudence, a theory about the legitimacy of software that both conceptualises regulative code’s potential illegitimacies and suggests concrete ways to ameliorate them. First it develops the notion of computational legalism – code’s ruleishness, opacity, immediacy, immutability, pervasiveness, and private production – before sketching how it is that code regulates, according to design theory and the philosophy of technology. These ideas are synthesised into a framework of digisprudential affordances, which are translations of legitimacy requirements, derived from legal philosophy, into the conceptual language of design. The ex ante focus on code’s production is pivotal, in turn suggesting a guiding ‘constitutional’ role for design processes. The article includes a case study on blockchain applications and concludes by setting out some avenues for future work.