Illuminating the underground: the reality of unauthorised file sharing - journal article now available

Five years after I submitted my doctorate, my research has now been published in the Information Systems Journal. I'm grateful for the help of my supervisors Dr Liisa von Hellens and Dr Sue Nielsen working on this paper. It is published in a special issue on the Dark Side of Information Systems. It has less than 18 months turnaround from submission to publication.

In my critical ethnography, I spent months studying a clandestine online community who engaged in unauthorised file sharing (illegal file sharing for personal use). Below is the abstract, and you can view the paper here.

This paper presents a new conceptualisation of online communities by exploring how an online community forms and is maintained. Many stakeholders in the music industry rightly point out that unauthorised file sharing is illegal, so why do so many people feel it is acceptable to download music without paying? Our study found highly cohesive, well-organised groups that were motivated by scarcity and the lack of high quality music files. Our ethnographic research provides insight into the values and beliefs of music file sharers: their demands are not currently being met. Using Actor-network theory, we are able to propose that the file sharers represent a growing potential market in the music industry and that music distribution systems should be developed accordingly to meet the demands of this user group. Therefore, this study can serve as a springboard for understanding unauthorised file sharing and perhaps other deviant behaviours using technology.