Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Virtual Criminology: Insights from Genetic-Social Science and Heidegger

Academic journal article Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Criminology

Virtual Criminology: Insights from Genetic-Social Science and Heidegger

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

It is the intention here to 'apply' certain meta-concepts from Owen's [2014] Genetic-Social framework together with some 'new' constructs , to the study of virtual and hybrid cybe r-criminologies associated with Sheila Brown [2006, 2013]. It is strongly suggested that far from playing down or ignoring 'the merging of the human and the technical through sociotechnical environments such as the dissolution of the body into information, disembodied entities, digitalizing the human, simulated consciousness and cybernetics' [Brown, 2013:488], critics are correct to view this 'new' school of criminological theorising as 'old wine in new bottles' [Brown, ibid].

It is argued here that Brown's virtual/hybrid criminologies revolve around an under-theorised and reified concept of agency. Drawing upon the model of agency favoured in the Genetic-Social framework in which an actor is conceived as an entity capable of formulating and acting upon decisions, and incorporating selected insights from neuroscience which suggest that we need to reformulate the concept of agency as neuro-agency , in tandem with considering the 'hybrid' in terms of Heidegger's Dasein, it is suggested that virtual and hybrid criminologies, in common with the related actor-network theories [Callon and Latour, 1981] and posthuman agency theories [Pickering, 1993, 1995a, 1995b, 2001] should be repudiated. It is contended here that we need a non-reified concept of agency which reflects the influence of neurons, and the mutuality between genes and environment, together with the concept from Heidegger [2010] that being is time. The so-called 'merged' human-technical hybrid in reality is an example of symbolic thinking. No machinery or cyborg has the capability of formulating and acting upon decisions without human programming, and no cyborg qualifies as Dasein. As Heidegger [ibid] suggests, to be is to exist temporally in the stretch between birth and death. In reality there is no 'merging' of the human and the technical. We also consider the implications for social policy inherent in Brown's [2013: 488] contention that it is increasingly difficult to distinguish 'human agency and culpability' from 'non -human objects and technology'.

Introduction

In what follows, we briefly consider what is meant by virtual and hybrid cyber-criminologies [Brown,], and then move on to codify the new version of Owen's [2014] Genetic-Social framework, which incorporates several new meta-concepts since the publication of Criminological Theory: A Genetic-Social Approach by Palgrave Macmillan in April 2014. We then 'apply' some of the meta -concepts, which now incorporate insights from neuroscience [Dennett, 1981; Dennett et al, 2007; Moll et al, 2005 ] and t he philosophy of Heidegger [2010] to the study of these relatively new forms of criminological theorising pertaining to cyber-crime. In the course of examining virtual and hybrid criminologies we also look at the closely related actor-network theories of Callon and Latour [1981] and theories of posthuman agency associated with Pickering [1993, 1995a, 1995b, 2001]. It is contended that virtual and hybrid cyber - criminologies in addition to their more sociological counterpart, actor-network theory , should be rejected in favour of concepts of neuro-agency and psychobiography. The former meta-concept reflects the idea that when considering 'Who is in charge?', one should keep firmly in mind that human beings [ Dasein] are the product of natural selection, a cocktail of the mutuality between genes and environment, and we must acknowledge the neuroscience of free-will [agency] and the evolved nature of moral reasoning. The latter meta-concept, psychobiography refers to the asocial, inherited aspects of the person or disposition. Machinery and cyber-technology may simulate a 'merging' between the human and the technical, but in the harsh light of a Heideggarian theory of pure surface, no cyborg or machine can ever qualify as Dasein. …

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