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

Williams, Matthew Leighton ORCID: and Wall, D. S. 2007. Policing Diversity in the Digital Age: Maintaining Order in Virtual Communities. Criminology and Criminal Justice 7 (4) , 391 - 415. 10.1177/1748895807082064

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Members of `terrestrial' communities are migrating in ever-increasing numbers 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 diversifying 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 exists 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.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Publisher: Sage
ISSN: 1748-8958
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 09:25

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