"Prologue: Of Cyberworlds, Cyborgs and Cybercrimes" por Majid Yar
Image: Surian Soosay. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.
We call a statement a ‘truism’ when it presents a self-evident and obvious truth. When it comes to the digitised saturation and reconfiguration of everyday life, we should take pause to appreciate how quickly the strange and fantastic has become familiar and commonplace. In other words, it is now a truism that manifold domains of human action, interaction and experience have been changed (in ways both subtle and profound) by the rise of new communication technologies and their penetration into the interstices of social, political, cultural and economic life for billions across the globe. For social scientists, as for those charged with managing the disruptions wrought by rapid change, the new truths or realities of cyber-society demand careful attention and analysis. This is nowhere more apparent than when it comes to dealing with the dangers, risks and harms that the emergence of cyber-society brings to the fore. In response, the field of cyber-criminology has from its inception sought not only to document but also to analyse and explain processes and patterns associated with online crime and victimisation. While Jorge Ramiro Pérez Suárez’s book represents another contribution to this ongoing criminological endeavour, it does so in terms that are notable for their refreshing originality. The heart of his approach is announced, front-and-centre, in the book’s title, with its provocative claim that we are cyborgs. Let us pause to consider just what this means, and just what it entails. The use of the term cyborg conjures up a parade of familiar cultural images – murderous and unstoppable Terminators, Tony Stark’s superhero alter ego Iron Man, or Darth Vader, who we are reliably told is ‘now more machine than man, his mind twisted and evil’. In light of such popular cultural reference points, it would seem somewhat far-fetched to claim that we, you and I, are in fact now cyborgs. I, for one, regrettably lack either bionic super strength, x-ray vision, or the ability to propel myself great distances using in-built rocket boosters. However, to dismiss this proposition would be far too precipitous, and based upon a serious misunderstanding of exactly what a cyborg is. In essence, the term denotes the outcome or result (a cyborg) of a process (cyborgization) that enhances and extends humans’ innate biological capabilities though integration with technological artefacts. At an anthropological level, we can claim the first tool-using human was also the first cyborg – integrating and extending its capacities to perceive or shape the world through a marriage and blending of biology and technology. In modern societies, examples of such cyborgization abound, and are so familiar that we seldom see them as unusual or in any sense ‘alien’ – just think of spectacles and contact lenses, hearing-aids and pacemakers, binoculars and cameras, wristwatches and rollerblades. This process of integrative enhancement has reached new levels through our quasi-permanent connectedness with digital technologies and the extension of human perceptual and communicative capabilities they enable. Dr Pérez Suárez realizes that the techno-social assemblage created through this cyborgization is not simply extending the range of actions and interactions, expressions and perceptions of which we are capable, but is in a very real and profound sense remaking our humanity as such. If we are not as we once were, then attempts to understand and explain our existence and experience must likewise change, taking proper cognisance of the fundamental reconfigurations that our new cyborg existence entails.
This brings us to the criminological task at hand – explaining the how, why and wherefore of criminal, transgressive and deviant behaviour online. There is no shortage of attempts to travel well-trodden criminological pathways so as to explain cybercriminal behaviour. Theoretical frameworks ranging from rational action to subcultural conditioning, via a broad swathe of psychological perspectives, have been drawn from the repository of criminological resources and put to work in the hope of getting a grip on the problems of cyber-offending. Yet, in my view, Pérez Suárez appreciates something that many cyber-criminologists tend to overlook – that the intensity and extent of our integration with digital technologies means that online behaviour can no longer be treated in a piecemeal fashion, as simply a small and isolated subset of our overall experience. Rather, techno-social integration requires something akin to a ‘general theory of cybercrime’, one that grasps the anthropological totality of our electronically configured lives. The use of Per-Olof Wikström’s Situational Action Theory (SAT) as a foundation is testimony to the author’s ambition – this theory aims to integrate individual and environmental factors, bridging and reconciling objective situational influences with subjective dispositions and processes of moral reasoning. By bringing the subject of criminological action into its new constitutive (online) environment, the theory promises a much fuller and more finely attuned account of cybercriminal behaviour than has heretofore been achieved. Yet Pérez Suárez goes further - recognizing some of the limitations present in Wikström’s theory, he seeks to elaborate it further through integration with Sykes and Matza’s neutralization approach, thereby adding a further vital element to our understanding of the dynamic of cyber-offending behaviour. What emerges is an exciting new framework that promises to stretch the boundaries of cyber-criminology and contribute to its ongoing development. I’m sure that you, like me, will read this book with great interest; and I, along with the rest of cyborgs, look forward to seeing where this new criminology takes us next.
Professor of Criminology
Lancaster University UK