Coming from a small university town, the words “summer school” conjure up two very different yet equally haunting images. Both the tableau of an over-tired, over-worked PhD student hunched over their desk until the small hours of the morning, or the onomatopoeic memory of screeching hordes of eager teenagers, rampaging through otherwise quiet, cobbled streets, used to evoke equal feelings of dread within me. Therefore when I found out I was selected to take part in the Internet Law Summer School at the University of Geneva, it was with an air of mild trepidation that I packed my suitcase.
As classes started I soon found I had a little more than these simple stereotypes to worry about. Coming from a background in Social Anthropology, I was suddenly surrounded by an array consummate legal professionals. I found myself, a lowly undergraduate, sandwiched between high court judges and seasoned human rights lawyers. Furthermore, eight hours of lectures per day combined with my total ignorance of the French language, meant that at first it was tempting to take exhausted refuge in my accommodation. However, it was overcoming these hurdles which made my time at summer school so rewarding.
I began to push myself in classes. By speaking one on one to guest lecturers I started to appreciate that my background in social sciences gave me an unique perspective from which to approach new legal challenges such as culpability within artificial intelligence and the morality of privacy laws. I discovered that by furthering my knowledge of legal terminology and concepts, I was able to ground the ideological abstractions of Social Anthropological in a tangible legal framework. This confidence in my abilities allowed me to grow closer with my colleagues on the course, and over coffee, wine, or large pots of fondue we began to learn from each other’s widely different backgrounds. Never before had I been able to learn in such depth about how the law in different countries affected people’s day to day lives. I was able to understand more about the policing of freedom in Russia, to the electoral process in Turkey, or the preparation against cyber warfare in Oman. I began to appreciate how law runs through the veins of all societies.
When I set out to study in Geneva I had hoped to learn more about cyber security and warfare, and to avoid converging with the stereotypes of summer school students that I held in my head. Instead I believe I found the perfect balance between the hard working student and the over-excited tourist. I studied hard in lectures and certainly expanded my knowledge of internet law, but it was through the people that I met, travelled and laughed with, that I learned that law is something to be lived, not just to study.
The town of Lausanne
At the top of Mt. Saleve
The team at the Hardt Foundation
The view from the World Intellectual Property Organisation