Cybercrime and everyday life: exploring public sensibilities towards the digital dimensions of crime and disorder
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date09/07/2020
Horgan, Shane Liam
The thesis provides a novel empirical criminological account of the way the public makes sense of and feels about cybercrime on the one hand, and how they go about managing cybersecurity in their everyday lives on the other. As the internet has been increasingly embedded in everyday routine activities, people are correspondingly exposed to the perpetual risk of cyber-victimisation. Criminologists have argued that as a consequence of salient cultural representations of cybercrime and hackers, as well as fear-campaigns of the cybersecurity industry, crime online is surrounded by a ‘culture of fear’ that propagates feelings of risk and anxiety. Thus far there has been little empirical work investigating this reality. A central contribution of the thesis is to address this significant gap in the literature, and evidence the value of developing a criminological analysis of public cybersecurity. Drawing from the results of original qualitative empirical research, this dissertation develops a novel critique of the ‘fear of crime’ by situating cybercrime with theoretical repertoire of ‘fear of crime’. It then deploys the concept of ‘sensibilities’ (Girling et al., 2000; Garland, 1990) to make sense of the experiences of different groups of people (university students, parents of school aged children, and older computer users) by engaging them in focus group and interview discussions about the internet, cybercrime, and how they go about managing online risk in their everyday lives. It is argued that people think about cybercrime in a variety of ways, and that to think about public perception through the lens of ‘fear’ is problematic. Paralleling the internet’s transformation of crime, we can make sense of the array of sensibilities captured with reference to the way the internet has also transformed the experience of crime risk, victimisation and security. Moreover, by exploring people’s responses to cybercrime and demands made of them for greater risk management in their everyday lives, the importance of thinking about cybersecurity practices sociologically is revealed. Overall, this thesis situates and renders visible the importance of the social and cultural contexts in which cybersecurity behaviours take place. The thesis has important implications for public oriented cybersecurity policy. Responsibilising and securitising campaigns that aim to change people’s online behaviour are not communicated or interpreted in a social and cultural vacuum. These messages interact, conflict and compete with other sensibilities, norms, values and routines. It is concluded that people’s cybersecurity practices and behaviour are best understood as a negotiated outcome, and this interplay needs to be accounted for in public awareness campaigns if they are to be successful.