Platforms as Law

A speculative theory of coded, interfacial and environmental norms



Computational law, Code as law, Platforms, Algorithmic governance, Speculative legal theory


This paper aims to offer a nomic (legal-spatial-political) concept of platform at the interface between modern legal theory and contemporary speculative philosophy. I argue that the ‘code as law’ debate has been dominated by ‘legal correlationism’, a theoretical framework based on the is/ought distinction in which ‘code’ appears as a technological fact to be regulated by legal norms. I propose an alternative approach via speculative legal theory in order to take code as law in a literal sense. I rework Carl Schmitt’s notion of ‘nomos’ to produce a legal concept of platform that avoids correlationism. I frame both modern law and computational platforms as nomic platforms, though based on different conceptions/experiences of technics, and map out their respective operations. I discern three types of norms active in nomic platforms: coded, interfacial and environmental norms, the first two of which have been often confused, while the third remain largely unknown to legal theory. Finally, I seek to offer a set of concepts meant to render cloud platforms intelligible in nomic terms, especially those of device, application, interface and user, introducing the notion of the transdividual user as the correlate of algorithmic governance. I close by emphasising that, though it is vital to criticise platform nomics and protect the affordances of law-as-we-know-it, those efforts should be supplemented by theoretico-practical speculation about what law may become.

Reply by Cecilia Rikap, University College London.



17 November 2023
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How to Cite

Magalhães, José Antonio. 2023. “Platforms As Law: A Speculative Theory of Coded, Interfacial and Environmental Norms”. Journal of Cross-Disciplinary Research in Computational Law 2 (1).