I’m Ben Collier and I’ve just (five days ago) begun studying towards a PhD in criminology. I haven’t kept a blog before now and am intending to use this space for reflecting on the academic reading and writing I’ll be doing as my research progresses. As such, posts here won’t be fully-formed pieces of writing but more a record of ideas and impressions as I go through the early stages of my PhD, hopefully progressing into more focused and lengthy discussions as my writing and knowledge of the area improves.
I’m originally from a sciences background, having completed an MSc in Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh – I decided that Chemistry wasn’t where my interests lay and went on to study an MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the same university. Through my MSc, I took courses in Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice, Theoretical Criminology, Mental Health and Crime, Research Methods, Quantitative Analysis, Criminal Justice and Penal Process and I audited a course on Cybercrime.
My PhD topic is still in its early stages of formation, but it follows on somewhat from my MSc dissertation topic. My dissertation took the form of a critical analysis of the criminological theory literature on cybercrime, using theoretical perspectives from Bruno Latour’s “Actor-Network Theory” and Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Theory” to try to gain some insight into some of the classic problems posed by the literature on cybercrime. This work was particularly inspired by Sheila Brown’s paper “The Criminology of Hybrids: Rethinking Crime and Law in Technosocial Networks”. In particular, I was interested in questions about the “novelty” of cybercrime – whether high-technology societies produced a novel social environment for crime and what the role of technology was in mediating criminal and deviant behaviour. While ANT has its limitations, I thought that its treatment of space and its focus on a wide range of technological and human actors could potentially lead to some insights in these areas. I also felt that Donna Haraway’s work could help fill in some of the perspectives missing in ANT – the role of discourse, culture and identity in technosocial networks.
I’d very much like the PhD research to tackle similar questions. I think that there are a lot of issues posed by cybercrime which the current criminological literature does not adequately address – routinisation, automation, the role played by algorithms and semi-autonomous technological actors in cybercrime, questions of the “novelty” of cybercrime and the deployment of the outdated concept of “cyberspace”. To start with, I’ll be doing a lot of reading to try to narrow down the exact areas I want to focus on and try to get an idea of any case studies or fieldwork I might want to conduct.
Current reading: finishing off Visions of Social Control by Stan Cohen and Mass Incarceration on Trial by Jonathan Simon. Also beginning an NSA-style dragnet of Google Scholar on relevant keywords. Current fiction is Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said.