Policing Diversity in the Digital Age: Maintaining Order in Virtual Communities

Criminology & Criminal Justice, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 391-415, 2007

16 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2007

See all articles by David S. Wall

David S. Wall

University of Leeds, Centre for Criminal Justice Studies

Matthew L. Williams

Cardiff University - School of Social Sciences

Abstract

Members of 'terrestrial' communities are increasingly migrating to a new 'Third Space' that manifests outside traditional geographical physical boundaries. This online space consists of purely social relations where interaction and community are performed at-a-distance. The diverse populations of these virtual villages, towns and cities now constitute very real communities. Online non-gaming spaces such as Ebay, Active Worlds and Secondlife, for example, deliberately utilize the discourse of community in an attempt to instil a sense of communal space and shared responsibility among their members. While the majority subscribe to the rhetoric of 'netizenship' others find alternative means to participate online. The avocations of these few have resulted in the endemic deviance/crime problem that exits online. As a result, online communities have developed their own distinct history of control and regulation.

This article explores the ways that online social spaces maintain orderly 'communities'. It contrasts 'proximal' (online) forms of governing online behaviour, such as online reputation management systems, 'virtual' police services and vigilante groups that employ 'online shaming', with 'distal' (offline) forms such as offline policing and criminal justice processes. The central theme of the article is a critical account of how these, often contradicting, nodes of governance interact.

Keywords: cybercrime, governing online behaviour, online community, policing cyberspace, shaming, virtual community

JEL Classification: K42, K30, 030

Suggested Citation

Wall, David S. and Williams, Matthew L., Policing Diversity in the Digital Age: Maintaining Order in Virtual Communities. Criminology & Criminal Justice, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 391-415, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1012702

David S. Wall (Contact Author)

University of Leeds, Centre for Criminal Justice Studies ( email )

School of Law, Liberty Building
University of Leeds
Leeds, West Yorkshire LS2 9JT
United Kingdom
+44 113 343 9575 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.leeds.ac.uk/people/staff/wall/

Matthew L. Williams

Cardiff University - School of Social Sciences ( email )

The Glamorgan Building
King Edward VII Avenue
Cardiff, Wales CF10 3WT
United Kingdom

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