In the Midst of the Test Society
Orange Labs (a.k.a. France Telecom R&D) is experimenting with electronic justice. A device called “Point Visio-Public”, which allows interacting with public administrations at-a-distance, is going to be tested in the field of legal procedures. Here’s the advertised purpose:
“Through this real-time interaction, based on human relation, administrative obligations are simplified and cumbersome physical displacements are avoided. The public service counselor manages all operations from a workstation. Point Visio-Public offers, at-a-distance, the comfort of direct contact with public administration thanks to the quality of image, though which agents are visible in real time and exchange “face-to-face” — a patented technology.” (from Press Release, France Telecom, December 3 2007)
Maître Eolas, a lawyer who blogs about this just here, expresses discomfort and finds this “human relation” rather surreal. But, as a good observer of law in the midst of the “test society”, he also observes that, of course, the experiment requires configuring France as a testing site first. Indeed:
“Rachida Dati, French Minister of Justice, and Didier Lombard, CEO of France Telecom, have signed today a convention of experimentation on the functionalities and the uses of a Point Visio-Public service devoted to judicial procedures. This convention is part of the modernization program put forward by Rachida Dati, which considers in particular the computerization of all jurisdictions in January 2008.” (from Press Release, France Telecom, December 3 2007)
Dati is in a rush to “reform the judicial map”, which means to close about 200 courts in France: a reform perceived as not quite insightful by professionals (see “Rachida Dati affronte un mécontentement croissant sur la carte judiciaire”, Le Monde, November 11 2007). But she just called this Point Visio-Public thing an “experiment”. As everybody knows, experiments are there to provoke reaction and monitor informed feedback — such as Maître Eolas’, whose post and subsequent comments should therefore be considered as a legitimate experimental outcome.