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Thursday, October 11 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Association of Darknet Researchers

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For the past two decades, the standard Internet has been haunted, augmented, or challenged by "darknets," or encrypted, anonymized computer networks with unique networking protocols and topologies. Darknets get characterized in very divergent ways. For some, darknets are havens of evil, full of drug dealers, hackers, information thieves, and pornographers. For others, they are liberation technologies that help people route around online censorship. For still others, they are complex, cultural sites that allow for new forms of personal connection that are not possible on the standard Internet.

Much of the previous research on darknets has focused on the first connotation, that of evil. Here, the emphasis has been on rooting out darknet-based black markets, terrorists, human traffickers, and child abusers. Often, this work relies upon an unspoken technological determinism, where anonymizing technologies inevitably bring out the worst in people, exposing their inherent desire to exploit one another.

Some researchers have argued against this view, noting that darknets allow for dissidents to escape surveillance, avoid censorship, and bring more transparency to governance through whistleblowing practices. However, often this line of work relies on technological determinism, as well, presenting anonymizing technologies as automatically bringing about liberation.

The "Association of Darknet Researchers" is a group of scholars who seek to move Darknet Studies into new directions beyond its immediate association with automatic evil and instant liberation into more complex understanding of its cultural and material practices. In other words, how are people actually using darknets? How do their practices relate to larger social, cultural, political, and economic institutions? What are the transnational materialities of darknets as they appear in different geopolitical contexts? Drawing on their expertise and previous research, the participants in this roundtable will present short position papers on these topics and then invite discussion about the future of Darknet Studies.

avatar for Jeremy Hunsinger

Jeremy Hunsinger

Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
avatar for Nathalie Marechal

Nathalie Marechal

PhD 2018, University of Southern California

Thursday October 11, 2018 4:00pm - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 4