Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
JS_RN07_RN09_05: The Economics, Politics and Cultures of Dark Networks
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Sebastian Koos, University of Konstanz
Session Chair: Mark Jacobs, George Mason University
Location: BS.4.06A
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Fourth Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

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“See, ‘Trust’ Is a Word Rarely Used in Here…”: Mistrust, Credibility and Collaboration among Anonymous Hacktivists

Philip K Creswell

Uppsala University, Sweden

It has been over a decade since the first political manifestations of the digital scene dubbed Anonymous. In that time, the hacktivist arena has seen increased policing, high-profile arrests, and the introduction of state actors posing as hacktivists. Engagement in this arena, where actors are anonymous or pseudonymous, introduces challenges for participants because alters may be like-minded participants or something else entirely: federal agents, trolls, or rivals from other networks. Using an analysis of observations in Anonymous chat rooms and interviews with hacktivists, I show that participants respond to these uncertainties by structuring their interactions and organizing public discussions in ways which manage risks from law enforcement, external antagonists and internal rivals. Through codified and openly discussed strategic protection of one’s personally identifying information, as well as subcultural norms of obfuscation through humor, participants signal their assessment of the milieu as risky. However, many participants also rely on circles of associates and even friends for information, threat assessment, collaborative projects and emotional support. This suggests that while perceptions of risk may increase barriers to cooperation in mediation, it may also lead to individuals developing stronger interpersonal ties with alters. This finding contrasts portrayals of Anonymous as a ‘pure’ example of swarm or crowd behavior online. Rather than finding activists who perform fleeting activism and lack social infrastructure, my analysis suggests that activists have developed strong, persistent, collaborative relationships; a social sinew at the center of the swarm.

Bad Banks? Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Irresponsibility in Times of Economic Turmoil

Sebastian Koos

University of Konstanz, Germany

The global financial crisis is deeply rooted in the irresponsible banking and lending practices of the global financial service industry. The crisis had devastating consequences, not only for debtors, the loans of home-owners, pension plans of retirees, but also for the employment and income of many citizens around the world. After brief stagnation, inequality has increased drastically due to "bad banks" sparking recession. In this paper we focus on the global banking and financial services industry to analyze under which conditions banks engage in irresponsible behavior in times of financial crisis. We are specifically interested to understand how different national institutions and corporate governance arrangement influence whether banks behave irresponsibly, thus whether different forms of regulation and control might foster or hinder corporate irresponsibility. Theoretically, we combine institutional theory with a focus on corporate governance. We expect that banks are more likely to behave irresponsibly in contexts with little regulation of the financial market and weak firm-level corporate governance. Empirically we use the Asset4 Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) data set to test our claims. ESG data are collected by analysts to assess investment risks and provide metrics for social responsible investment decisions. Our data contains information on 407 financial and investment services firms located in 49 countries from 2005 to 2015. The structure of the data allows to asses both comparative differences and changes over time in the social and economic performance of firms. Our analysis show that “good” corporate governance can indeed lower the likelihood of bad banks.

Non-Enforcement As Informal Pact: Towards a Political Economy of Illegality

Matías Dewey

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Germany

Contemporary analyses on the state usually take it for granted that official attempts to manufacture social order occur within the confines of the law. Accordingly, the voluntary compliance of subordinates is achieved through bureaucratic processes and political will imbued with legality. Based on ethnographical work on the infringement of different types of laws in Argentina, this presentation holds that democratic states can also establish social order by forging informal pacts with specific social groups outside the confines of the law. It is argued that informal pacts are initiatives based on the non-enforcement of the law introduced by authorities and aimed at establishing a mutually beneficial exchange. The case analyzed indicates not only the significance of informal pacts for further research, but also the importance of observing organized inactions as well as identifying errors, gaps and overlapping rules as sites for the illegal extraction of useful political resources.

Towards An Elementary Theory of Dark Networks

Mark Jacobs

George Mason University, United States of America

Dark networks conduct nasty business: human smuggling, child- and sex- trafficking, trade in drugs, extortion, financial fraud, money laundering, influence peddling, terror. Although by definition their activities are hidden, they are often hidden in plain sight, and as Federico Varese has shown, mafias (as an example) operate within many of the same inherent constraints as more legitimate enterprises. The relative neglect of dark networks by our discipline is shameful.

Global and national transformations of social life are multiplying these practices, in what Manuel Castells calls “the network society.” This paper represents a preliminary attempt to establish a theoretical foundation for the sociology of dark networks, based among other elements on Simmel’s theory of the secret and the secret society and their increasing significance for a world of expanding social networks in a credit economy; Goffman’s theory of social life as a confidence game; John Thompson’s insights about the transformative effects of mediatization on the public sphere; and Edward Shils’s conception of “the torment of secrecy” as a corrosive imbalance of privacy and publicity.

From The Outskirts To Urban Peripheries: National Criminal Collectives In North And Northeast Brazil

Fernando de Jesus Rodrigues

Universidade Federal de Alagoas (Brazil) London School of Economics (Visiting Fellow), United Kingdom

Until very recently, there was no perception that West-Centre, North and Northeast Brazil were connected to national and international criminal collective networks such as PCC (Primeiro Comando da Capital), in São Paulo, and CV (Comando Vermelho) in Rio de Janeiro. A series of massacres in Brazilian prisons from 2016 has put pressure on researchers to revaluate their investigation agendas. From the findings of fieldwork and questionnaires I intend to draw on some developments within the dark networks under which the North and Northeast have connected to transnational drug trade. The work is based on research on juvenile prisons and poor neighbourhoods (including shantytowns) in one of the poorest and the most agrarian states of Brazil, Alagoas. Through juveniles and their families’ trajectories, I point out how work, family and criminal migration have become entangled. Furthermore, I aim to bring some evidence of how these migration movements are tied to new state and trade developments in their lives. From this, I sketch representations of emotional, cultural and economic transformations that seem closely connected to a singular process of the state’s expansion on the "new" urban poor, and the spreading “facções” as criminal collectives through “peripheric” regions in Brazil. In the end, I highlight how this scenario is interdependent from some movements worldwide.

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