Archive for the ‘Criminology’ tag
It’s admittedly been a while since my last post, but I have still been a bit scattered about the nature of my topic and have been earnestly trying to refrain from focussing on Web Science issues that are too narrow and specifically, archaeological. In lieu of this I’ve been focused on getting to grips with Criminology first, a discipline which I know I want to study and apply elsewhere. I’ve been taking lots of notes along the way, but hadn’t yet transcribed them here, so here goes..
The following mostly stems from Walklate 2005: Criminology: The Basics.
What is Criminology?
Criminology as Multidisciplinary
One of the big take home points for me about Criminology as a discipline is actually how inherently multidisciplinary it is. Depending on who you ask, you might get a somewhat different take on the nature of criminological study, typically framed by the ‘other discipline’ from which the researcher stems from. This includes criminology from an economics, history, psychology, law, sociology, anthropology, and philosophical multidisciplinary stance – all researching and defining criminology somewhat differently. Yet Walklate claims all disciplines are “held together by one substantive concern: CRIME.”
What is Crime?
The question of “what is crime” within the criminology community is contested, and seems to go beyond defining crime as simply breaking the law though this is a useful starting place for most researchers, as it removes the emotive nature of studying such a subject area. But criminologists must also consider that laws change, thus understanding the processes of criminalizing and decriminalizing and the processes that influence policy can also fall under the remit of criminology. Criminologists must also consider social agreement, social consensus and societal response to crime, which extends the crime definition beyond that which is simply against the law. In addition, crime still occurs regardless of the content of the law – and this falls within a sub sect described as “deviant behaviour” which seems to lend itself more to the psychological-criminological studies.
Sociology of Crime
The sociology of crime is concerned with the social structures that lead to crime – “individual behaviour is not constructed in a vacuum” - and it takes place within a particular social and cultural context that must be examined when looking addressing criminal studies. Social expectations and power structures surrounding criminal acts are also important to the nature of studying crime in society.
Example applications and questions
- Why does there seem to be more of a certain type of crime in some societies and not others?
- Why/If the occurrence of a type of crime is changing throughout time?
- Why do societies at times focus efforts on reducing/managing/effecting certain types of crimes?
feminism – forced a thinking about the “maleness of the crime problem”, and question of masculinity within society – “search for transcendence” (to be master and in control of nature)
Sources for analyzing crime
- direct experiences of crime
- mediated experiences of crime
- official statistics on crime – Criminal Statistics in England and Wales, published yearly a good starting point. Home Office, FBI, EuroStat
- research findings of criminologists
“the dark figure of crime” – the criminal events only known to the offender and the victim – e.g. those that don’t get caught, or not reported/recorded.
Not all recorded offenses have an identifiable offender/not all offenders are convicted - partiality
The 3 R’s: recognising, reporting, recording.
Reporting – criminologists must understand reporting behaviour and reasons for not reporting crime, and then how that effects the results/statistics upon analysis.
- behaviour may be unlawful but witnesses may not recognise it as such, thus not report it
- witnesses may recognise an act as criminal but consider it not serious enough to report
- judicial process – and numbers of tried vs convicted, the politics of this and its subsequent effects in reporting
- police discretion on recording crime – e.g. meeting and reporting to targets
identifying trends – it’s important to understand crime statistics over time
- understand whether crime and terms for crime change over time, changes to how an offense is defined
- criminal victimisation surveys – do these exist for Internet fraud
- crimes against the personal vs crimes against property
the Problem of Respondents – getting people to respond to surveys can be challenging.
- big difference between crimes known to police and the dark figure of crime
- big difference between crimes made visible by criminal victimisation surveys and those that remain invisible (e.g. tax fraud)
Whether it be from property developers, civil war and conflict, treasure hunters and local enthusiasts, or just “bad archaeology”, archaeologists and heritage professionals have long struggled with the question of how to ensure the protection of sites, monuments and antiquities for future generations. Archaeological method and ”preservation by record” were historically born out of situations where archaeology can not be conserved and within a desire to uphold one of the main principles of stewardship: to create a lasting archive. As archaeology is (very generally speaking) a destructive process that can not be repeated, an archive of information regarding the context and provenance of archaeological sites and finds is created to allow future generations to ask questions about past peoples.
Recent years have presented numerous ethical challenges to archaeologists and and other stewards of the past, particularly where crime and illicit antiquities are concerned. Social media and web technologies in general have provided, in some cases, real-time windows into the rate of the destruction of heritage sites within areas of war and conflict. Evidence from platforms such as Google Earth, Twitter, and YouTube have all been used by world heritage stewards to plead for the protection of both archaeological sites and “moveable heritage”. Ever-evolving networks of stakeholders in the illegal antiquity trade have also been identified and linked to looted sites in areas where some have hypothesized that the sale of antiquities is actually funding an on-going arms trade in regions consumed by civil war.
Although a case could be made for investigating the nature of archaeology and crime from the angle of many different disciplines (philosophy, ethics, economics, law, psychology, to name a few), criminology and journalism were specifically chosen to offer insight into the role of the Web as a facilitator in the flow of information. Both disciplines are concerned with information flow and resource discovery – for example, in journalism the flow of information between (verifiable) sources of information through to dissemination to the public, and in cybercrime the important information exchange that drives networks of crime (both physical and virtual).
Focusing on the nature of information exchange, what would criminology and journalism contribute to the following topics?
- Social media and the dissemination of heritage destruction. What are the ethical issues surrounding the use of social media sources in documenting heritage destruction? Can/should social media sources (sometimes created for other purposes) be used as documentation to further research or conservation aims within archaeology?
- The international business of selling illicit antiquities – from looters to dealers – what role does the Web play in facilitating these networks of crime? What methods for investigating cybercrime could be applied to the illicit antiquities trade to better understand the issues surrounding provenance?
- Does the “open agenda” and the open data movement specifically (e.g. online gazetteers of archaeological sites, open grey literature reports with site locations, etc.), create a virtual treasure map and subsequently increase the likelihood of looting at archaeological sites?
Some aspects of each discipline which I believe to be relevant to the study of each (as well as the chosen topic):
Criminology and Cybercrime
- What is crime? (“The problem of where.“/”The problem of who.“)
- Policy and law
- Positivism and the origins of criminal activity.
- Digital Forensics
- What is Journalism?
- Who are Journalists?
- Ethics and Digital Media Ethics
- Anonymity, Privacy and Source
- Bias and Conflicts of Interest
Some Potential Sources
Burke, R.H., 2005. An Introduction to Criminological Theory: Second Edition. Willan Publishing.
Walklate, S., 2007. Criminology: The Basics. 1st ed, The Basics. New York: Taylor & Francis.
Yar, M., 2013. Cybercrime and Society. 2nd ed., London: SAGE.
Ess, C., 2009. Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Frost, C., 2011. Journalism Ethics and Regulation. 3rd ed., Longman.
Harcup, T., 2009. Journalism: Principles and Practice. 2nd ed., SAGE.
The Digital Divide has become a popular term, commonly understood as the gap between those that have access to the internet and those that do not. Initially it is assumed this gap is simply between the developed and developing countries, also known as the Global Divide. However, there are other distinct aspects of the divide; Social divide – the gap within each nation, and the Democratic Divide – those who use/do not use digital resources in their pubic life.
Although there are several efforts and schemes in place with the hope of bridging the gap, it is a great issue that is highly unlikely to be solved in the near future. In fact it is most probable that the gap will carry on growing, increasing the difficulty of bridging it.
This topic has always intrigued me. I believe this is a great opportunity to research the matter through the perspectives of Geography and Criminology.
Geography, the study of “the world around us”, already draws upon a range of disciplines including sociology, anthropology, geology, politics, and oceanography.
It is divided into two parts; Human and Physical Geography. Although I will hope to cover both parts, I believe my research will heavily focus within the Human side of Geography, as it emphasises on the changes of the world effected by human interventions.
I anticipate to discover research amongst one of the main topics of Geography; Globalisation – a defined term used since the 1990s describing the characteristics of the world we live in.
With absolutely zero previous experience in the field of Criminology, I hope this will give a different insight to the Digital Divide in comparison to Geography, and with a closer focus on the topic, such as social inequality.
Light research has already demonstrated there is a vast interest in crime and criminals, and that crime varies throughout different societies. There are several explanations criminologists have composed from Biological explanations to Social and Psychological explanations. There are also several different theories created to explain reasons for crime including the Economic and Strain theory.
To date, the following books appear to be of great use and help towards this research study:
Daniels, P., Bradshaw, M., Shaw, D., Sidaway., (2012) An Introduction to Human Geography, 4th ed, Essex: Pearson
Moseley, W., Lanegran, D., Pandit, K., (2007) Introductory Reader in Human Geography Contemporary Debates and Classic Writings, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
Hale, C., Hayward, K., Wahidin, A., Wincup, E., (2009) Criminology, 2nd ed, New York: Oxford University Press
Norris, P., (2001) Digital Divide, Civic Engagement, Information Poverty and the Internet Worldwide, New York: Cambridge University Press
I have decided to start by learning the principles which underlie criminology and philosophy. I start by asking, what is criminology? Then I go on to give a brief history of criminology.
After trawling the net for some time, paying particular attention to university websites, I decided to use “The Oxford Handbook of Criminology” by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner as my core textbook, almost everything below is indebted to them.
What is Criminology?
Criminology draws from an amalgam of subjects such as law, sociology, phycology, psychiatry, history and anthropology in order to answer questions like, what are the causes of crime? What are the ethnographic s of certain deviant groups? What can we learn from case studies of individual criminals? Can we predict future crimes and future perpetrators of crime? Why are some people criminals and others not?
This begs the question, why did Criminology become a discipline in its own right? Maguire, Morgan and Reiner suggest that it was contingent upon the exertions of discipline forming institutions and dominant individuals.
They then go on to discuss the emergence of criminology as a discipline. It is suggested that criminology is the synthesis of two schools of thought. The first is government – who want to know how to best create laws and govern with respect to crime and criminals. The other school of thought comes from an Italian anthropologist Cesare Lombroso(1835-1909) who thought that people could be divided into two category, criminals and non-criminals, Lombroso went so far as to claim that there is a biological difference between criminals and non-criminals.
With a hard science a scientist or group of scientists produces a theory and evidence to back it up. Then they write it down in the form of a paper which is peer reviewed and then either accepted or not accepted into the scientific community. If a theory is accepted within the scientific community it is then accepted in the general public for example the theory of Black Holes. On the other hand a scientific theory accepted in the criminology community is not always accepted by the general public. The “common sense” view of the world is often much more powerful.
In order to understand the principles of Criminology it is useful to detour into some History.
A Brief History of Criminology
The history of criminology turns out to be a fiercely contested, vague and ugly. In fact the word criminology was only coined in the 1890’s and what we think of as criminology today (the current paradigm if you like) only crystallised in the 1960s and 70s, and even that’s debateable. The history of criminology is further confused, because what was thought of as “criminology” differed in France, Germany, England, Italy and the U.S.
To illustrate the history of criminology I have created a timeline with significant events and the socio-economic backdrop for these events. My apologies, especially to Paul and Javier that it’s not fantastically beautiful! Hopefully the timeline helps to elucidate the history of criminology, which is contingent upon sociological events. For example, criminology, it is argued by Maguire, Morgan and Reiner, really started in the 18th century, which was also the time when a network of insane asylums and doctors attending these asylums emerged in Europe. Maguire, Morgan and Reiner further argue that since a significant proportion of inmates in the asylums were also criminals, for the first time doctors were concerned with understanding the criminal mind.
Then throughout the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th prisons were invented and governments became stronger. As a result governments, especially in the UK, became interested in how to control their citizens and demanded reports about criminal behaviour, crime rates prisons and laws. As a result most of the work done in the UK was modest and respected legal principles.
Then WW2 happened and shortly afterwards the modern British welfare state was created. There was a political move towards greater social and economic equality. Coupled with this many great crime researchers came to Britain from Germany where ideas about social demographics and crime were far more advanced. Add into the mixing pot a government and public fear about juvenile delinquents in the 50s and it should come as no surprise that criminology entered the academic arena in 1961 in Cambridge.
Since then criminology has pulled away from a study into how to cure/correct a criminal towards a more interdisciplinary subject concerned with social, philosophical and psychological aspects of crime.
Researching Distributed Currencies.
Over the course of my time here studying Web Science, I would like to do some in depth research into distributed currencies. A distributed currency is a form of money with no centralized processor or controlling authority. At the moment there are only a handful of distributed currencies in existence, and the majority of them stem from Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a “totally” anonymous and distributed online currency. It’s similar to PayPal in that you can use it to buy things online and send/receive currency quickly and conveniently.
PayPal is the opposite of a distributed currency, it’s centralized. PayPal handle all the processing of transactions, and they are also the authority for all transactions and for this service they charge a small fee on each transaction (varying from 2% – 8% of a transaction + a fixed 20p.) If PayPal doesn’t like a transaction, it will slow it, stop it or outright take your money away (googling PayPal took my money returns over 6million results.)
A distributed currency is not centralized. The transaction processing is handled by anybody who chooses to use the currency which normally involves running some client software. Because it’s running on anybodies computer, the currency must be designed in a secure way that doesn’t allow individual clients to tamper with or reverse transactions. The implications of this are a totally unregulated currency where nobody can decide what is right or wrong.
The pro’s of this are that people can make transactions for anything they want, without the worry of their account being frozen or their transaction being blocked or slowed or outright refused by a regulatory authority like PayPal. There is no single point of failure (or corruption.) Also, there is no mandatory fee’s to use these currencies or make transactions. The open distributed nature utilizes the internet in the way it was intended. It could be argued that centralized services governed by one authority undermine the entire point of have the internet (a distributed network) in the first place.
Bitcoin is totally anonymous also. If you want to receive money, you give someone a wallet address. You can have as many wallet addresses as you want which has the end result of it being impossible to link transactions to people. However, combine anonymity, money, and no regulation or authority and sure enough, you get criminals.
Bitcoin received a lot of publicity after the launch of a website called silkroad which was described as “the Amazon marketplace of drugs” which allowed users to by all sorts of illegal items including drugs and weapons – all paid for by the anonymous distributed currency Bitcoin. As well as Silk Road for weapons and drugs, there have also been suggestions that Bitcoin is used to trade in other illicit things such as hiring bot nets, hitmen, slaves, prostitutes and more.
Because there are supposedly a large amount of criminals using Bitcoin, there is a lot of fraud. Browsing Bitcoin forums and it’s not hard to find posts of people frustrated at being scammed out of several hundred Bitcoins (the current conversion is 1btc = $3) because there is no regulatory authority to reverse fraudulent transactions.
However, that’s not to say everyone that uses Bitcoin is a criminal or that every transaction is related to an illegal item. The idea of totally free online transactions should appeal to anybody that sells online, as it could result in lower product prices for the end user.
Over the course of my research, 1 of the many aspects of distributed currencies I would like to look into is ways of making a distributed economy that is less risky to use (e.g. reducing fraud and scams, it maybe that this means reducing anonymity) but maintaining the benefits of free transactions and no single point of failure/corruption.
My 2 subjects of research
My background is in computing science, I think it would be useful for me to also have a better understanding of economics and and criminology for the aspect of research above. Why?:
Economics: wikipedia described economics as “the social science that analyses the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.” I believe a deeper understanding of this and the methods associated with economics would allow me to conduct more informed, appropriate and educated research and to account for and explain the necessity of currency, trade and economies. Specifically I would like to look into online/cyber economics as it’s important to understand the differences (if any) between how people trade online vs. in the real world and how to cater towards these differences and incorporate them into my future research.
I’m not sure yet, I’ve been looking for economics books relating to the web and internet but have been unsuccessful in finding any so far. If anyone has any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to put them forward!
Criminology: wikipedia describes criminology as “the scientific study of the nature extent, causes and control of criminal behaviour in both the individual and in society.” In order to protect something against crime and fraud, I believe it’s important to first understand why people commit crime and fraud in the first place. Specifically I would like to look into cyber criminology to try and get an idea of the research methods used to access and understand such a dark corner of the web. I’d like to learn if and how researchers in this area get full, truthful and honest answers from an area that is inherently full of people willing to mislead.
Not 100% sure on this one yet, but here’s a few ideas:
Cyber Criminology: Exploring Internet Crimes and Criminal Behaviour (2011)
“Approaching the topic from a social science perspective, the book explores methods for determining the causes of computer crime.”
Cyber Forensics and Cyber Crime: An Introduction (2008)
“It includes and exhaustive discussion of legal and social issues, fully defines computer crime…provides a comprehensive analysis of current case law, constitutional challenges and government legislation”
This week I have carried on my reading of Roger Hopkins Burke (2005).
In my earlier blog I talked about the rational actor model, however central to this is the classical school of thought. Ideas of the classical school argued that people are ‘rational creatures’ who look for pleasure while at the same time trying to avoid pain. Therefore, any punishment that is inflicted must significantly outweigh any pleasure that one might have achieved as a result of a criminal act, in order to deter people from committing crimes. The classical school can be thought of as having a significant impact on the influence on the modern day justice system because of the notions of ‘due process’ (Packer, 1968) and ‘just deserts’ (von Hirscg, 1976).
There were two key classical school theorists – Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham.
Cesare Beccaria (1738-94)
Was the author of an influential book that had a huge impact on European and US legal thought. He disagreed with inconsistencies in the government and public affairs Beccaria suggested that criminals owed a ‘debt’ to society and that the punishment for criminals should be in proportion to the seriousness of the crime. He recommended that capital punishments was no use and instead imprisonment should be extended, with the conditions of prisons to be improved. However, it is his theory of criminal behaviour that has provided the grounding for the rational actor model, using the concepts of free will and hedonism. Beccaria proposed that human behaviour is based on the pleasure-pain principle, so any punishment should reflect that. Beccaria’s ideas have had a significant effect on the modern criminal justice system and the doctrine of ‘free will’ can be seen today in the majority of legal codes, with a major impact on popular ideas of justice.
He attributed criminal behaviour to their incorrect upbringing or socialisation instead of innate inclinations to offend. Bentham considered criminals as ‘persons of unsound mind’ who have no self discipline to manage their passions. His ideas are similar to that Beccaria suggesting that people are ‘rational creatures’ who try to avoid pain while looking for pleasure. Likewise, similar to that before, punishment must outweigh any pleasure that is gained as result of committing a criminal act. However the law must NOT decrease the ‘greatest happiness.’ Bentham also believed in ‘free will,’ with his work proposing that criminality might be ‘learned behaviour.’
The influence of the Classical School
According to Hopkins – Burke (2005) the classical school is considered influential in legal doctrine that emphasises conscious intent or choice, (e.g. mens rea or guilty mind), in sentencing principles (e.g. responsibility), and in the structure of punishment (e.g. sentencing tariff). Particular this school can be seen in the ‘just deserts’ approach to sentencing. This includes four key ideas according to von Hirsch (1976):
• Only an individual found guilty by a court can be punished for the crime
• Anyone that is found to be guilty of a crime must be punished
• Punishment must not be more than the nature of the offence and culpability of the offender
• Punishment must not be less than the nature of the offence and culpability of the criminal
All of these are founded on the notion first suggested by Beccaria and Bentham. There is importance on the idea s of free will, and rationality, proportionality and equality, with an added importance on criminal behaviour that looks at the crime and not the actual criminal, in relation to the pleasure-pain notion to make sure that justice is done by equal punishments for crimes of the same nature.
According to Packer (1968) the criminal justice system is said to be founded on the balance between due process and crime control. Due process stresses that it is the role of the criminal justice to prove that the defendant is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, however the state has a duty to prove the guilt of the accused (King, 1981). This is based around the idea of innocent until proven guilty. This model requires the enforcement of rules that are concerned with powers that the police have and the use of evidence. This due process system recognises that some guilty people may get off scot free and remain unpunished. But this is considered to be acceptable if it means that innocent people are not wrongly convicted and punished. On the other hand, a high rate of aquittal gives the impression that the criminal justice system is inadequate and not performing their jobs properly, and therefore failing to deter criminals.
Contrastingly, a crime control model places emphasis on achieving results with priorities on catching, convicting, and punishing the criminal. In this model there is what’s known as a ‘presumption of guilty’ (King,1981) and there are less controls to protect the offender. It is seen as acceptable if some innocent individuals are found guilty. In this model it is the interests of the victims, and society that are given the biggest priority rather than the accused. Criminals are thought to be deterred due to the shift processing nature of the system, therefore if a person offends they are likely to be caught quickly and punished – therefore what’s the point?! The primary foundation of the crime control model is to ‘punish the guilty and deter criminals as a way of reducing crime and therefore creating a safer society,’ (Hopkins-Burke, 2005).
This week I have started my reading on Psychology and Criminology, which are the two disciplines that I am going to explore for my review.
Psychology – What is Psychology?
Psychology can be defined as the science of behaviour – the discovery and explanation of the cause of certain behaviours. Psychologists try to explain these behaviours by studying its causes, to explain why people do what they do. Some psychologists also examine the behaviour of animals to help provide insights into factors that can affect human behaviour. Different psychologists study different behaviours and are interested in different groups of causes, but how do we study and explain human behaviour? In order to understand why we do what we do, psychologists must become familiar with what people do, and look at the events responsible for a behaviour’s occurrence. Carlson et al (2007) have recognised 12 approaches to understanding the causes of human behaviour:
Physiological psychology- examines the role of the brain in behaviour
Comparative psychology – explores the behaviour of various species of animals to try and explain the behaviour in terms of evolution.
Behaviour analysis – consider the effects of the environment on behaviour
Behaviour genetics – look at the responsibility of genetics in behaviour
Cognitive psychology – explores complex human behaviours and mental processes e.g. perception, attention, learning, memory etc.
Cognitive neuroscience – works alongside cognitive psychology and physiological psychology and is concerned with looking at brain mechanisms that are responsible for cognition.
Developmental psychology – is concerned with the development of behaviour throughout a person’s life. Includes looking at physical, cognitive, emotional, and social developments.
Social psychology – studies the results/effects that a person’s behaviour has on others.
Personality psychology – looks at individual differences in patterns of behaviour and a person’s temperament.
Evolutionary psychology- is the study of natural selection and how this can influence behaviour.
Cross cultural psychology – studies the consequences of how culture can affect behaviour.
Clinical psychology – is concerned with looking at mental disorders, problems of adjustment and the causes and treatments of these.
By studying behaviour and its causes – we can look at how to solve problems and simply fulfil our need to understand what makes human beings work. For example, excessive smoking, obesity, poor exercise, bad diet, and heavy drinking are all responsible for many illnesses, which could be reduced and peoples living conditions increasingly improved if people changed their behaviour. Psychologists can therefore, apply their knowledge of behaviour to a range of problems and provide a solution. In this way it can be considered a profession. For example school psychologists try to help students with behavioural problems, and consumer psychologists provide advice to organisations that offer a service or buy and sell goods.
Carlson, N. et al (2007) Psychology: The Science of Behaviour. 6th Edition. USA: Pearson
For my reading next week I am hoping to look at research methods used by psychologists and start to look at evolution, genetics and behaviour. I also hope to start my reading of the book: The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace.
Criminology – A Brief History
The idea that criminals are driven by forces beyond their control still exists today. However, prior to the modern age of crime and criminal behaviour, it was proposed that criminals were possessed by demons that forced them to do bad things beyond their control – known as ‘Demonology.’ There was little written law, and crime was associated with sin. This meant that the state felt they had ‘moral authority’ to use horrible methods of torture and punishment. The accused were subjected to closed trials, torture and harsh punishments – which were often inflicted on the physical body of the accused. The accused also faced the possibility of being tortured to death. Little use was made of imprisonment as prisons were mostly used for holding suspects and offenders before they went to trial or punishment. It was thought that the threat of cruel punishments administered in public and with theatrical emphasis would act as a deterrent for the ‘dangerous’.
The criminal justice system was ‘chaotic, non-codified, irrational, irregular and at the whim of individual judgement.’ It was only with the emergence of the modern era and new methods of viewing and responding to the world, that lead to a breakthrough in the way that crime and criminal behaviour was dealt with.
Defining the extent of crime
Crime can include a range of different activities such as fraud, theft, robbery, assault, corruption, rape, and even murder. Crime can often be thought of as the doing of wrong, but not all activities that some might consider immoral, are thought of as crimes. For example, parking in a disabled space when your not actually disabled is immoral but isn’t considered to be a crime. The easiest way to define crime is an act that breaches criminal law. This can be problematic because in English law some offences (i.e. murder, serious assault), re seen as ‘real’ crimes and can be described as ‘mala in se.’ But some crimes are ‘mala prohibita’ prohibited because they are for the protection of the public.
As with everything, legal definitions change over time and vary between different cultures. What may be legal in one country may be illegal in another. Crime can therefore be considered ‘part of a political process’ and a ‘social construction,’ which is increasingly seen in the media.
Explanations and research into criminal behaviour have emerged from studies which have been carried out on individuals from lower socioeconomic groups. It is considered this ‘dangerous class’ have been at the forefront of criminological thought since the start of modern society. But it is important not to forget the problem of what is known as ‘white collar’ crime or corporate crime which often involves a person of respectability and high social status.
Burke, R.H. (2005) An Introduction to Criminological Theory. 2nd Edition. Devlon: Willan Publishing.
For my reading next week I am hoping to look at models and traditions that attempt to explain crime and criminal behaviour.
The growth of the Internet presents a series of new challenges to both individuals and society as a whole. Cybercrime refers to an array of diverse, illegal, illicit activities that all share one thing in common – the environment in which they take place – ‘cyberspace.’
After much consideration the two disciplines that I have decided to examine are Criminology and Psychology. After exploring the underlying principles of both these disciplines, I hope to conclude whether they support each other or conflict with regards to the issue of cybercrime. Similarly, I will also take into account the challenges that cybercrime presents to each discipline, and conclude whether these perspectives offer any solutions to the problem.
As these are both disciplines I have never studied before I am going to look at reading undergraduate text books and basic introductory books as recommended by my peers. I have decided to start my research on criminology by reading the following books:
The Oxford Handbook of Criminology by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, and Robert Reiner
An Introduction to Criminological Theory by Roger Hopkins Burke.
For the physiology part of my review I am going to be using the books listed below:
Basic Psychology by Henry Gleitman et al.
The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace
Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behaviour by Dennis Coon and John Mitterer
I have also come across the following book which I will use to do some background reading on the issue of cybercrime :
Cybercrime and Society by Majid Yar
Two competing anxieties can be discerned in public debate and both are reflected in a large research literature. On the one hand the media are often seen as fundamentally subversive threat to law, on the other as a more or less subtle form of social control. Some researchers tacitly imply that media images of crime do not have significant implications because the establishment of the causal relationship between images and effects is too complicated.
Content of media images of crime
Richard Ericsson and his colleagues: their concern was “social deviance and how journalists participate in defining and shaping it”. Deviance in its broadest meaning, can be defined as “the behaviour of a thing or person that strays from the normal…not only..criminal acts, but also..straying from organisational procedures and violations of common-sense knowledge”. More importantly, deviance is the essence of news and which journalists consider newsworthy. It can also be questioned on what is included in common-sense knowledge which directly affects the representation of crime reported.
Ericsson et al. also found that “popular” media focused overwhelmingly more often on “interpersonal” conflicts and deviance, but “quality” ones included many items on such official deviance as rights violations, or on policy debates about criminal justice or corporate conduct.
The pattern of crime news
Content analyses have found systematic differences between the pattern of offences, victims, and offenders represented by the news and in official crime statistics or crime surveys. Whilst statistics and surveys may represent the “real” world of crime, they are open for interpretation, depending on the context.
An implicit assumption that the gap between media representations of crime and the actuality supposedly disclosed by official statistics causes significant problems – they are accused of exaggerating the risks of crime, cultivating an image of the world that is “scary” and “mean”.
Fear of crime and the coping strategies it leads to (such as not venturing out at night) are deemed disproportionate to the actual risks, and thus irrational and problematic in themselves (Sparks 1992).
Success of police and criminal justice: there is also the exaggeration of police success in clearing-up crime (resulting largely from Press reliance on police sources for stories). Summed up in a review of fifty-six content analyses in fifteen different countries between 1960 and 1988, “the over-representation of violent crime stories was advantageous to the police…because the police are more successful in solving violent crimes than property crimes”. The media generally present a very positive image of the success and integrity of the police and criminal justice more generally.
Characteristics of offender: there is a clear pattern to news media portrayal of the characteristics of offenders and victims. Most studies find that offenders featuring in news reports are typically older and higher-status offenders than those processed by the criminal justice system.
Characteristics of victims: there is a clear trend for victims to become the pivotal focus of news stories in the last three decades. This parallels the increasing centrality of victims in criminal justice and criminology. News stories exaggerate the risks faced by higher status, white, female adults of becoming victims of crime, although child victims do feature prominently. The most common victims of violence according to official crime statistics and victim surveys are poor, young, black males. However, they figure in news reporting predominantly as perpetrators.
There is a predominance of stories about criminal incidents, rather than analyses of crime patterns or the possible causes of crime. There is a concentration of events rather than exploration of the underlying causes. As summed up in one survey of the literature, “crime stories in news papers consist primarily of belief accounts of discrete events, with few details and little background material. There are very few attempts to discuss causes of or remedies for crime or to put the problem of crime into a larger perspective”.
Content of crime fiction
Frequency of crime fiction: while there have been important changes over time in how crime is represented in fictional narratives, crime stories have always been a prominent part of popular entertainment, usually accounting for about 25% of output.
The pattern of crime in fiction
While crime fiction presents property crime less frequently than the reality suggested by crime statistics, the crimes it portrays are far more serious than most recorded offences.
The clear-up rate is also high in fictional crime. Overwhelmingly majority of crimes are cleared up by the police but an increasing majority where they fail.
Consequences of media images of crime
Most research has sought to measure two possible consequences of media representations: criminal behaviour (especially violence) and fear of crime.
There are several logically necessary preconditions for a crime to occur and the media play a part in each of these, thus can affect levels of crime in a variety of ways. The preconditions are as follows:
- Labelling: for an act to be labelled as “criminal”, the act has to be perceived as “criminal” by the citizens and the law enforcement officers. The media plays an important role in shaping the conceptual boundaries and recorded volumes of crime. The role of the media in helping to develop new (and erode old) categories of crime has been emphasised in most classic studies of shifting boundaries of criminal law within the “labelling” tradition. The media shape the boundaries of deviance and criminality, by creating new categories of offence, or changing the perceptions and sensitivities, leading to fluctuations in apparent crime.
- Social anomie theory: the media are pivotal in presenting for universal emulation images of affluent life-styles, which accentuate relative deprivation and generate pressures to acquire ever higher levels of material success regardless of the legitimacy of the means used.
- Psychological theory: it has been claimed that the images of crime and violence presented by the media are a form of social learning, and may encourage crime by imitation or arousal effects. It has also been argued that the media erode internalised control by desensitisation through witnessing repeated representations of deviance.
- Means: it has been alleged that the media act as an open university of crime, spreading knowledge of criminal techniques. However, the evidence available to support this allegation remains weak.
- Opportunity: the media may increase opportunities to commit offences by contributing to the development of a consumerist ethos. The domestic hardware/software of mass media use e.g. TVs, radios, PCs, have become common targets of property crime and their increase in popularity has been an important aspect of the spread of criminal opportunities.
- The absence of controls: external control – police, law-enforcement officers; internal control – small voice of conscience; both of which may be enough to deter a ready-to-commit offender from offending. A regular recurring theme of respectable anxieties about the consequence of media images of crime is that they erode the efficacy of both external and internal controls. E.g. ridiculing law-enforcement agents, negative representation of criminal justice or potential offender’s perception of the probability of sanctions.
The media and fear of crime
Signoriello (1990): Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled, more susceptible to deceptively simple, strong, tough measures and hard-line postures – both political and religious. They may accept and even welcome repression if it promises to relieve their insecurities and other anxieties. That is the deeper problem of violence-laden television.
Causes of media images of crime
The immediate source of news content was the ideology of the reporter, personal and professional and this view is supported by most of the earlier studies. However, a variety of organisational and professional imperatives exerted pressure for the production of news with the characteristics identified by content analyses:
- The political ideology of the Press: majority of the press intend to remain politically neutrality. Traditional crime reporters explicitly saw it as their responsibility to present the police and the criminal justice system in as favourable a light as possible. However, the characteristics of crime reporting were more immediately the product of a professional sense of news values rather than any explicitly political ideology.
- The elements of “newsworthiness”: the core elements of “newsworthiness” are: immediacy, dramatisation, personalisation, titillation and novelty (hence, most news are about deviance). This explains the predominant emphasis on violent and sex offences, and the concentration on higher-status offenders and victims, especially celebrities.
- Structural determinants of new-making: e.g. concentrating personnel on courts is economical use of resources but has the consequence of covering cleared-up cases, creating a misleading sense of police effectiveness. The police and criminal justice system control much of the information on which crime reporters rely and this gives them a degree of power as essential accredited sources.
Relevance to cybercrime
Deviance is the essence of news; it is the key virtue that makes something newsworthy. This means that the selection of reported incidents depend heavily on how the media’s definition of deviance. In addition, the success of police, the characteristics of the offender(s) and victim(s) involved in the incident are major factors that affects the amount of coverage an incident will receive in the media.
With regards to cybercrimes, it is interesting to find out the difference between the amount of coverage of cybercrimes in the media and the actual number of incidents in cybercrime statistics. My guess is that cybercrimes are heavily under-reported and the reasons for this under-reporting are made apparent by the findings given above. Cybercrimes are often carried out by more than one offender on a global scale and often anonymous. In some cases, they are carried out by highly-skilled but ordinary looking males (who are usually classified as social excluded or “geeks”) with little valuable newsworthy characteristics. The victims of cybercrimes most often are not aware they have become victims or the impact is so insignificant that it is not newsworthy. In other words, it is hard for the media to find newsworthy stories to tell with regards to the victims of cybercrimes (with the exception of online child offences). In addition, I believe that people are generally not interested in cybercrime-related news items because there is an a-priory assumption that cybercrime issues are too difficult to gain a visualisation in their head, as one would normally see in a picture capturing an act of violence for example.
This part has given me new insights into looking at the failure in promoting awareness of cybercrime in a climate where crime is often exaggerated by the media. Traditional crimes such as theft and violence are often exaggerated to an extent that the level of fear is irrational. Yet, the attitude towards cybercrime is opposite. The level of fear and the precautionary measures in response to the fear is not enough for the average internet users to protect themselves sufficiently. I strongly believe that content analysis of news reports is an important area in the research into raising public awareness to cybercrime.
Following last week’s revised Brief, as the literature review has solely been focused on Sociology, it seemed appropriate that the focus this week was turned to Criminology.
This Week’s Achievements:
Last week I aimed to obtain three specific books; however, although I do intend to read all of the recommended textbooks, I decided this week to focus on:
Jewkes, Y. and Yar, M, (eds) ‘Handbook of Internet Crime,’ (Willan Publishing, Devon, 2010)
This textbook is extremely insightful into how the Web has impacted on individuals’ digital expression of their identity. Furthermore, how this may facilitate crime.
Chapter 14 – Smith, R.G, ‘Identity Theft and Fraud’ is particularly relevant, as Smith proposes that “arguably, one of the most pressing financial crime problems that has faced developed societies in recent years – namely the commission of crime through the creation and use of misleading and deceptive identities.” (p273) Therefore, this chapter covers a range of issues relating to identity that has been facilitated by the Web, from the possibility that Avatars can commit virtual crimes untraceable in the real-word, to identity theft – particularly on social networking sites.
Alongside this I thought it would also be useful to obtain some textbooks that are centred on the methodology that underpins the discipline of Criminology.
1) Harrison, J, Harrison, O, Martin, E. and Simpson, M, ‘Study Skills for Criminology,’ (SAGE Publications, London, 2005)
This book was written by academic criminologists targeting people considering or enrolled on an undergraduate degree in Criminology, to enable them to better understand what the course entails and its general requirements. Some areas covered, such as examination strategies are obviously irrelevant to this review; however the book does provide some important insights into the main study skills involved.
2) Babbie, E. and Maxfield, M, G, ‘Basics of Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology,’ (Thompson: Wadsworth, Canada, 2006)
This book is useful as it offers a different view of the methodology used by criminologists, as it is written for individuals undertaking research in the discipline. Therefore, it explains how the elements of ‘Criminal Justice Enquiry’ work, including references to: how data may be collected; how data may be modelled; where criminological theory fits in; and survey research.
Next Week’s Aims:
It would be interesting next week to also find textbooks that are focused on explaining the methodologies that sociologists utilise in their research. Furthermore, reading the other two recommended textbooks is also a priority.