Now that we’ve established the terms we’ll be using, we can delve into the topic itself.
Place is an important concept in understanding culture, and specifically, deviant culture. Traditionally, place has been used to confine deviant culture and keep it out of everyday life, but in a way that allows it to stay restricted, yet acknowledged. Think of Las Vegas, commonly referred to as the City of Sin, where prostitution and gambling is rampant and legal. These vices are not generally legal in the United States, but when confined to a predetermined space, makes these acts acceptable within a larger culture.
This idea of a deviant place or community is explained concisely by Erikson:
[each community] has a specific territory in the world as a whole, not only in the sense that it occupies a defined region of geographical space but also in the sense that it takes over a particular niche in what might be called cultural space and develops its own ‘ethos’ or ‘way’ within that compass. Both of these dimensions of group space, the geographical and the cultural, set the community apart as a special place and provide an important point of reference for its members (Erikson, 8).
Using Erikson as a theoretical aid, we can extend her idea to the Internet. In the case of the Web, we are not dealing with a physical space, but rather a cultural space defined by its users. Going back to the Las Vegas example, the Web is similar: The Surface Web is comprised of a large majority of casual Web users who visit news sites, social media sites, and other pages related to their interests. Pornography is akin to Las Vegas in this instance – it is considered deviant, but is still not completely taboo in the Internet world.
The Dark Web, on the other hand, is the Internet’s ‘wild wild west.’ It acts as a truly deviant space. Virtually lawless, the Dark Web is “is facilitated by a global network of computer users who believe the internet should operate beyond the supervision of law enforcement agencies.” (Goldberg). While the Surface Web does offer some level of anonymity, it is no where near the level of the Dark Web, which requires special software to access.
While the Internet does not necessarily serve as a substitution for a physical place, there are still pockets of deviancy, and these communities are strengthened by the connectivity of the Internet:
These individuals can now find and communicate easily with each other, even given large geographical dispersion, often forming social groups that validate and support their identities and behaviors. Importantly, this activity is done in relative anonymity, which contributes to close relationship formation because of reduced risks of self-disclosure (McDonald et al., 1)
The primary difference between deviancy on the Surface Web and the Dark Web is that, like Las Vegas, the Surface Web is ‘regulated deviancy.’ That is, as we’ve noted, pornography is allowed, but there are certain standards that must be attained. The Dark Web is unregulated, and is a hub of deviant activity that facilitates child pornographers, criminals, and hackers. On the other hand, the Dark Web also provides anonymity to dissenters suffering under oppressive political regimes, which for our purposes can still be considered to be a deviant behavior.
This project will focus on showing that the Dark Web has facilitated a new kind of deviance, one in which there are literally no rules or regulation. This is a move away from the traditional model, both in the physical and technological sense, where deviancy was regulated. The Dark Web has no boundaries in terms of content, and that is the key point in understanding its power.
Next, Accessing the Dark Web