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Law, society and culture

Law plays a role in all aspects of our everyday life. In this innovative module, you will explore the relationships between law, society and culture. You'll explore these themes through the lens of diverse and cutting edge issues which can sometimes be controversial. You'll have a unique opportunity to shape your pathway through the module by choosing the theme of your final block of study, focusing either on “law and humanities” or on “law and sciences”. This module, which has been specially designed to be studied online, will also equip you with a range of legal and transferable skills necessary for further independent study as well as for your personal and professional life.   

What you will study

Throughout the module, you will find a strong emphasis on law in context. This includes analysing of the interaction between law and the political, cultural and social contexts in which we live today, as well as an examination of these contexts from a historical perspective. As you work through the module you will be increasingly prompted towards recognising, examining, questioning and challenging in depth these legal contexts using your own legal reasoning. 

The module is divided into four blocks: 

Block 1: Gender, sexuality and law
This theme will look at the relationship between gender and law as well as sexuality and law. It will challenge the existing assumptions about the neutrality of law and explore the gendered nature of law, asking how does/should the law regulate and construct gender. Questions of how law interacts or should interact with the changing social concepts of gender and sexuality will also be addressed. In the final unit of the block, you'll focus on challenging the gender stereotypes and assumptions regarding female perpetrators and their treatment in the criminal justice system (in the UK and international context).

Block 2: Media, Internet and law 
In this part of the module, you will critically consider the ever-increasing impact of the Internet on the legal regulation of cyberspace, the media and freedom of expression. In modern society, the Internet has become a part of everyday life, with millions of people actively participating in online spaces on a daily basis. The Internet has also become a space where political, economic and cultural views are expressed, including social and political protests. However, the increased online participation of users and its diverse nature has provoked questions about the legal regulation of online spaces. You'll be challenged to think critically about the legal implications of people’s participation in online spaces in contexts of human rights (freedom of expression), privacy and surveillance as well as the overall question of the legal regulation of online space.

Block 3A: Law and humanities  
This block explores law in the context of humanities. Throughout this block, a sub-theme of Nazi Germany is adopted to provide you with concrete examples from a particular time period to explore the connections between the law and three key topics: the visual, language, and cultural property.  

Starting with a critical inquiry into how symbols, emblems, heraldry etc., were used by the Nazis in relation to and in accordance with the law to support and promote their ideology in the lead-up to WWII, you'll proceed to explore the language used in the legal texts of this historical period. Finally, you'll explore the legal issues surrounding cultural property of this period, the development of the international framework on protecting cultural property as well as the topic of return of cultural property after the war. 

Block 3B: Law and science 
In this block, you'll critically engage with issues arising in relation to the impact of science and developing technology on law. Starting with an exploration of the legal consequences of the use of robotics in various spheres of life, you will proceed to engage with the impact of cognitive neuroscience on law. In particular, you will have an opportunity to critically explore the question of how our sense of being an agent is viewed by the law when it determines criminal responsibility. Finally, the impact of “neurolaw” on the law of evidence will be addressed. 

You will study three out of these four themes. In the latter part of the module, you will have an opportunity to choose the final block that you'll study, i.e. ‘Law and humanities’ (Block 3A) or ‘Law and science’ (Block 3B). The final piece of assessment, which takes a form of a research essay, will be on the topic of the theme of your choice.

Student Experience Room
If you’re considering studying this on a standalone basis or as part of your law degree at the OU, you can find out more from the module team chairs and previous students in a recording of our online event, 'Choosing your OU level 3 optional law module’. This was held in the Student Experience room on the Law Study home page. You’ll also be able to find out about the other two optional modules for the law degree, Exploring legal boundaries (W350) and Justice in action (W360).

Professional recognition

If you intend to use this module as part of the LLB and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. You should read the information on the website, as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.

Entry requirements

We recommend that you have successfully completed 60 credits of OU level 2 modules prior to studying this OU level 3 module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

All the content and activities for this module will be available via the module website, which also includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

You will need

You will need to record an oral presentation as part of your assessed work on this module. We strongly recommend that you use a headset with a microphone, as using an external or integrated microphone and speakers could result in a poor-quality recording.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Monterey or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will mark and comment on your written and oral work. The tutors will also answer any questions you have about the study material or any other module-related queries. 

You'll have the opportunity to participate in various online learning events, which we strongly encourage as you'll be able to interact with the other students.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

One of the tutor-marked assignments is an oral presentation and you will be required to use Audio Recording Tool to record your presentation and submit it. The end-of-module assessment is a research essay and an opportunity to conduct your own small-scale research.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying W340 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Law, society and culture starts twice a year – in October and February. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2030.

Course work includes:

2 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

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