The Jury Is In: New Cases Deliberate Social Issues in Cyberspace

New Products: The Art of Deliberation; The Snowden Effect; Thinking Big: Bringing Big Sport’s Energy and Innovation to Education; The Decriminalization of Marijuana in Jamaica: A Key Step toward International Legalization?; The Color of Police Action in these United States

A new suite of free workshop-based case studies convenes participants in juries to deliberate important social issues of our time. Designed for Professor Charles Nesson’s HarvardX online course, JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change, these multimedia case studies include first-hand footage of current events, interviews with key players in the cases, and commentary from Professor Nesson. Participants are challenged to examine and rethink the concept of jury, as well as to be active participants in the deliberative process.

The course began with an introductory note, The Art of Deliberation, surveying elegant approaches for deliberating without rancor. Participants were introduced to historical legal cases (Vosberg v. Putney, Palsgraf v. LIRR, Commonwealth v. Hebert), deliberating alone or in pairs before entering the small group jury. Then, in each new module, the juries convened to reach verdicts on issues that increased in emotional tenor:

  • The Snowden Effect considers individual identity and anonymity through the lens of Edward Snowden’s NSA leak. This case study provides background on the state’s view of privacy, in order to approach privacy from the citizen’s point of view: in relation to others, through stages of anonymity, pseudonymity, and nymity. Participants must consider: “Who are we, the people of and on the net?” Participants deliberate whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor as well as how to feel about the actions of Snowden and the State.
  • Thinking Big: Bringing Big Sport’s Energy and Innovation to Education considers the possibilities for international sporting events to advance society. The case reviews the experiences of Brazil preparing for the World Cup and the Summer Olympics as well as Boston’s recent (now unsuccessful) bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Participants convene a jury and use Socratic questioning for cross-examination, with the aim of reaching a verdict on the opportunities and challenges that face host cities.
  • The Decriminalization of Marijuana in Jamaica: A Key Step toward International Legalization? surveys the legal and social history of marijuana in Jamaica, following for comparison the international trends in legalization. Participants negotiate an agreement between Rastafarian marijuana growers and the Jamaican Minister of Justice regarding the Cannabis Cup, a competition and celebration of the skill of growing marijuana. Through Socratic questioning and the objective of jury unanimity, participants find common ground.
  • The Color of Police Action in these United States brings the deliberative process to bear on one of the most difficult and divisive controversies of late, a true crisis of humanity: the killing of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement across the country. The case examines the deaths of two African Americans, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, respectively. By reviewing the grand jury decisions, the nationwide protests in response, and the ideologically tinged interpretations of these events, participants are prepared to constitute themselves as a grand jury and decide the cases themselves.

Though the cases themselves are rich with detail, information transfer is not the goal. JuryX seeks to teach students to become better citizens and deliberators. The jury pedagogy illustrates the power of consensus in solving multistakeholder issues, and the creativity that comes from collaboration, anonymity, and the power of the people. Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature technology tools and course exercises that made JuryX an open, honest cyberspace.

JuryX case studies are available free of charge from the Case Studies website.

About Elizabeth Moroney

Case Studies Editorial Assistant
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