CCR Symposium: Rhetoric, A Good Thing

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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1 Response

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    This is a minor point, Deven, but what do you mean by “rhetoric is not and cannot be about adopting a frame”? What is a frame if not a rhetorical device? It’s usually a metaphor, or at least a source of concepts and analogies.

    E.g., your Conrad quote is a rhetorical appeal to the notion that direct sensory perception is the best source of truth (which is itself far from being universally true). Your next paragraph continues in this frame by assuming that there is an objective, common-sense reality to the harms and interests discussed in the forum, i.e. you treat them as if they are reified and directly perceivable in Conrad’s sense. I don’t disagree that clearly there’s something wrong going on in connection with the activities Danielle is writing about, but that’s more because I share certain moral or ethical values with her and you, rather than believing these harms and interests have a separate reality obvious to all. Were they so obvious, there wouldn’t be a need for this this forum.

    As the forum shows, when people look at things from a criminal law frame or an economic incentives frame or a self-help frame, they don’t see things seen by the people who look from a civil rights frame. The usefulness of being aware of frames in this context is that by consciously changing them we can consider issues from different perspectives, and maybe recognize harms and interests that we couldn’t see from our old one. The frame often constitutes (transitive verb) the harms and interests, the “core of the idea”; it doesn’t simply mask them, as you seem to suggest.

    Your Conradian approach might be construed as a “sui generis” frame, saying (i) let’s look at what’s happening without reference to other doctrines of law, and (ii) let’s craft remedies to deal with that. But when you actually implement this, no doubt there will be other frames, legal, moral and otherwise, helping you to characterize the harms and interests you’ve reified.