Media Theory Essay

Total Length: 1325 words ( 4 double-spaced pages)

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Cyberterrorism, illegal (and legal) espionage, piracy, and cybercrimes differ from their pre-digital counterparts in serious and meaningful ways. For one, the nature of online social interactions diverges from that of face-to-face or even voice-only interactions due to the shields of anonymity. Second, technological prophylactics ranging from encryption to skillful network architecture can add multiple levels of protection to shield perpetrators while exposing the weaknesses in a less advanced consumer public. Third, the rapid advancement of artificially intelligent systems creates new possible realities and problems, as non-human actors become part of increasingly complex systems. Finally, digital media has enabled formal and informal surveillance and other forms of illicit behavior, transforming the relationship between actors and objects in ways that could alter political and social realities. Actor-network theory is an ideal lens and process by which to better understand the complex gamut of cybercrime. Developed initially in the 1980s and solidified in the 1990s, actor-network theory views technology within a social science framework. With actor-network theory, technology and media are both viewed as extensions of social and cultural realities, which is why the theory can potentially offer solutions to the problems of cybercrime.

Theoretical Framework

Actor-network theory is an ideal framework for studying the causes, mechanisms, and ramifications of cybercrime, as well as offering potential solutions. The theory is “versatile and well-suited for dealing with the complex interplay of human-technological digital relationships,” (Lippicini, 2014, p. 38). Lin & Lippicini (2011) also point out that actor-network theory can be applied to small and closed networks as well as large and open ones. Perhaps most importantly, actor-network theory has the capacity to deal with the problematic issues related to artificial intelligence and the relationships between humans and non-human actors that frequently characterize cybercrimes and responses to cybercrime. Another reason why actor-network theory is an ideal framework for understanding cybercrime is its systemic approach, as the theory sheds light on the inextricable connections between various social structures, institutions, individuals, and identities. Moreover, actor-network theory touches upon a central issue in criminology and the sociology of crime: the issue of power.
According to the premises of actor-network theory, all entities within any given network acquire power in several core but relatively stable ways: particularly through the “number, extensiveness, and stability of the connections routed through them, and through nothing else,” (Couldry, 2004, p. 1). Actor-network theory does not become boggled down by semiotics, and can offer instead pragmatic and practical solutions to problems like cybercrime. For instance, many of the most serious cybercrimes occur trans-nationally, and actor-network theory aids the development of cogent solutions to cyberterrorism, hacking, espionage, and other international events.

Review of Literature

A review of literature demonstrates how actor-network theory has already been applied to cybercrime and cybercriminality. Muller (2015) fuses the concept of assemblage and actor-network theory to provide a new approach to international relations that recognizes the centrality of digital networks. Digital networks, like all other social networks, possess an organic nature. When non-human entities are introduced, including artificially intelligent systems, the complexity of networks can complicate solutions to cybercrimes. Although actor-network theory “risks describing endless chains of associations without ever arriving at an explanation,” the theory does not oversimplify the issues related to cybercrime and cyberterrorism (Muller, 2015, p. 30). Muller’s (2015) analysis of actor-network theory as it applies to international relations and politics underscores the relevance of the theory as it applies to trans-national cybercrimes.

Lin & Lippicini (2014) apply actor-network theory directly to cybercrimes related to espionage. The authors note the fundamental ethical conundrums of cyberspace involve four main areas of concern: privacy, accuracy, property, and access (Lin & Lippicini, 2014). Using a case study of GhostNet, the authors show how an espionage enterprise violates ethical terms of privacy and access. Privacy is a presumed right in a democracy, whereas access refers more overtly to social structures and power negotiations. Access is a much-debated subject in the….....

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Couldry, N. (2004). Actor network theory and media: Do they connect and on what terms? Retrieved online:

Lin, Xue & Lippicini, R. (2011). Socio-technical influences of cyber espionage: A case study of the GhostNet System. International Journal of Technoethics 2(2): 65-77.

Lippicini, R. (2014). Illuminating the dark side of the internet with actor-network theory. Global Media Journal—Canadian Edition 7(1): 35-49.

Muller, M. (2015). Assemblages and actor-networks. Geography Compass 9(1): 27-41.

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