BILETA 2004: Out of the Box, Durham, England, 25-26 March 2004
By Ronan Deazley
The 19th annual BILETA Conference was held on 25th and 26th March 2004. Hosted by the Institute for Commercial and Corporate Law, a research centre within the Department of Law at the University of Durham, the conference was convened at Collingwood College, within the picturesque surrounding that is Durham City. The Law Department itself is situated within the city on Owengate, the main approach to Palace Green, which with its surrounding buildings, including the Cathedral and Castle is a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site. Conference delegates were especially fortunate in that the Cathedral, recently voted Britain's favourite building, provided the spectacular backdrop in playing host to this year's conference dinner.
The theme for this year's conference, 'Out of the Box', offered numerous resonances, invoking issues concerning the manner in which recent technologies have moved beyond the traditional threshold of the computer itself, the exponential growth of the digital environment, and the social, legal and political strategies for addressing the various Pandoran horrors (and gifts) such developments promise to release. More importantly the conference theme sought to throw open a challenge to the attending delegates to consider creatively the manner in which to best navigate these unsettled and unsettling times.
The two keynote presentations, both inspiring and entertaining in equal measure certainly rose to this challenge. The first was delivered by Prof Stephen Heppell, the Director of ULTRALAB, the learning technology research centre based at the Chelmsford campus of the Anglia Polytechnic University and Christchurch, New Zealand, and offered an extremely interesting snapshot of some of the most creative and innovative uses of learning technology within the international arena. The second, delivered by Prof Colin Tapper, of Magdalen College, Oxford, provided a tremendously insightful whistle-stop tour of the history and development of electronic retrieval of legal information, as well as proffering some possible future directions within this field.
Apart from these keynote presentations, there were forty-five papers presented from a truly international field, including papers by legal academics, practitioners, librarians and members of the judiciary from a range of diverse jurisdictions such as the US, Chile, New Zealand, India, Malaysia, Egypt, Israel, Malta, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Slovenia. These papers were given in streamed sessions grouped under four broad themes: Education; Society and the Individual; E-Commerce and Competition; and Intellectual Property Rights. In addition, this year's conference saw a considerable increase in papers of high quality from postgraduate students, largely as a result of the instigation of the BILETA Postgraduate Award Scheme. All forty-five papers will be made available on the BILETA website in due course.
With in excess of one hundred delegates attending over the course of both days of the conference, this year's turnout ensured that all the conference streams were well attended, and that the quality of discussion and debate throughout was high. Particularly encouraging was the high level of first time attendees, something which can hopefully be capitalised upon in successive conferences. Moreover, feedback on these, and other aspects of the conference, was almost universally positive. In particular, delegates considered the conference good value for money and welcomed the introduction of differentiated price bands for attendance.
The last word, of course, must be reserved for all those individuals who worked to ensure that the event ran as smoothly as possible. The contribution of the venue management staff and their excellent support, both in terms of general management and the very high quality of catering, should not go unremarked. Thanks are also due to those who assisted in the planning stages, chaired sessions, keynote speeches, and presented papers, and who otherwise contributed to the conference throughout. In particular, special thanks are due to Mrs Sheila Jobling, who handled all the conference administration, and without whom the event would not have been the success that it was. Thanks to one and all; I look forward to seeing you all again next year.
Ronan Deazley is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the University of Durham.
He can be reached at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
This is a Conference Report published on 30 April 2004.
Citation: Deazley, 'BILETA 2004: Out of the Box, Durham, England, 25-26 March 2004 ', 2004 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/04-1/deazley.html>. New citation as at 15/06/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2004_1/deazley/>.