Dr Karenza Moore, Dr Laura Connelly, and Dr Tom Redshaw, supported by Professor Ben Light, and the School of Health and Society, organised a one day symposium at The Old Fire Station, University of Salford, to coincide with Valentine’s Day 2020.
Deviant Pleasure Markets & Digital Technologies included keynote speakers:
Professor Susanna Passonen (University of Turku)
Professor Teela Sanders (University of Leicester)
Professor Ben Light (University of Salford)
Dr Angus Bancroft (University of Edinburgh)
Dr Jennifer Fleetwood (Goldsmiths, University of London)
The symposium, attended by PhD researchers, Early Career Researchers, and world renowned Professors, explored how digital technologies – from social media apps to cryptocurrencies – are rapidly and profoundly reshaping our world. Attention is increasingly being paid to how and why people use digital technologies to engage with illegal and/or ‘deviant’ markets for goods and services such as drugs and sex. In turn, digital technologies such as blockchain provide forms of exchange that enable such transactions to take place, often (pseudo)anonymously.
Scholars from a multitude of disciplines – including Digital Sociology, Cultural Criminology, Gender/Sexuality and Media Studies, and Critical Drug Studies, spent the day focusing specifically on digital technologies and deviant pleasure markets. Such markets involve practices broadly considered deviant in wider society, such as buying and taking illegal drugs, arranging public sex, or buying and selling sex online. These practices may be viewed as at once ‘risky’, potentially harmful, and profoundly pleasurable. Those involved in deviant pleasure markets may be constructed as ‘risky’ and ‘at risk’, whilst digital technologies may both exacerbate and mitigate off/online risks and harms, such as cyber-harassment.
Dr Moore, summarising the day’s fruitful discussions and debates, said: “We have seen the recent (re)emergence of work on deviant leisure markets, yet a focus on mainstream spaces and social harms somewhat obscures the pleasures these may involve. Approaches which foreground play and (digital) affect within and across on/offline spaces indicate that the pursuit and experiences of pleasures may be transgressive and transformative, acting to resist the solidification of negative subjectivities for example. Crucially, the risks, harms and pleasures of deviant pleasure markets are unevenly distributed according to intersectional inequalities and vulnerabilities. Understanding the sociotechnical practices of individuals, groups and communities in relation to deviant pleasure markets is crucial to the advancement of knowledge about our digital age”.
The day ended with wine and nibbles, with the ‘Deviant Valentine’ prize going to Dr S. MacRae @wsi2016 for her research presentation on heterosexual women’s engagement with online pornography.
Details of the programme are available here.