Some good news – having finished the pilot project and written it up for my First Year Panel, I’ve now passed my board and am good to begin my main research. I’ll be uploading a summary of my pilot findings here soon. I’ve arrived at what I think are a good set of research questions, which I’ll post here (they will likely be refined across the course of the research, but I think they’re a good base to work from):
- “Which are the main groups of actors that organise Tor and what are the organising practices, concepts and relationships that enable the project to flourish?”
- What organisation and interest groupings are present, how do different groups within the project interact and how does this affect the functioning of the project? How are decisions about Tor software development made and negotiated?
- What are the motivations of the people who contribute to the project, and how do they see the work they do, and their own identity as project contributors?
- “In what ways are the interests, experiences and views on crime, privacy and surveillance of the people who develop Tor reflected in work done, decisions about technology development and implementation, and governance of the project?
- How do contributors manage or mitigate the potential harms which could arise from use of their software? What challenges do they face Internally and externally, ow are these challenges and potential effects debated, understood and translated into the technology by contributors?
- What role do constructions of crime, privacy, state power and surveillance play in shaping how the organisation responds to these changes, and in shaping the technology itself?
- How do activists, Hidden Services providers and members of law enforcement agencies perceive these issues, and the governance and activities of Tor, and how do they appear to be attempting to influence outcomes and direction.
- Do STS frameworks provide useful insights in developing criminological theories of the Internet? How could a greater focus on the social shaping of technology deepen understanding of crime in high-technology societies?
I’ve also made a poster for the SCCJR research poster competition, attached here (with apologies to the Designers’ Republic).
Since quitting my job, it’s been really great having more time to read and devote time to other academic work – I’ve been mostly reading up on symbolic interactionism, which I think could be useful in working the Science and Technology Studies frame into a criminological context. I’ve also been doing a lot of teaching at the University, which I’m really enjoying – the first years are all proving very engaged and critical, drawing links between the tutorials (which are covering ideas of legitimacy in the criminal justice system) and contemporary issues, events and politics with very little or no prompting.
My next steps for the research are to begin speaking to members of the Tor Project about my research, arrange interviews where possible and begin exploring these research questions. I’m heading to the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia next week to attend talks, meet other academics researching internet freedom technologies and speak to people involved in the Tor community if possible.