Drugs and Community on the Internet - A Study of Drug Trends, Risk Management and Trust in Online Drug Communities
Appears in the following Collection
AbstractIn contemporary society, the internet has become the most widely used source of information about illicit drugs and their use. Within online drug-related discussion forums, large groups of anonymous members interact, gather user-relevant information and share their drug experiences with others. This recent development has generated a variety of research that study the online interaction between drug users. However, few have investigated the topic based on information from those who gather and co-produce the online content. In this dissertation, I study online drug communities with an analytical focus on the members who make up such websites. The aim is to understand how participation in online drug communities influences those involved. Based on observations of online discussions within a Norwegian internet drug forum and in-depth interviews with 29 forum members recruited from two Norwegian drug forums, this dissertation helps to provide new understandings of how drug users relate to and use the online information that they gather and co-produce. Through three published articles, I show how forum members contribute to the development of online drug discourses that shape their attitudes towards specific drugs, also highlighting the possible deterrent effect of such sites. Such experiential learning is however dependent on trust, and I argue that the development of collective identities, subcultural authenticity and online reputations, enables forum members to evaluate the credibility of the online information and those who write it. This community perspective, where members cooperate in the exchange of a cumulative body of drug-related knowledge, influences perceptions of risks and supports notions of participants as being informed, responsible and empowered. Importantly, the theoretical insights gathered from this dissertation have a broader range of impact than those solely relating to online drug communities, as it highlight the broader framework in which people increasingly use the internet to access and share health-related information. It shows how the decentralisation of authority on the internet help create online platforms on which new producers of health information emerge. These discursive communities promote narratives that often contradict official recommendations and may cause people to make independent health-related judgments. They therefore challenge traditional hierarchies in the dissemination of risks and undermine the communicative control of such content. Especially for an activity such as drug use which has been subject to scaremongering, stigmatization and criminalisation, these online communities provide drug users with powerful cultural tools as they are increasingly narrating themselves through an abundance of online content.
List of papers
|Article 1: Bilgrei, O. R. (2016). From “herbal highs” to the “heroin of cannabis”: Exploring the evolving discourse on synthetic cannabinoid use in a Norwegian Internet drug forum. International Journal of Drug Policy, 29, 1-8. The paper is removed from the thesis in DUO due to publisher restrictions. The published version is available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2016.01.011|
|Article 2: Bilgrei, O. R. (2018). Broscience: Creating trust in online drug communities. New Media & Society, 20 (8), 2712-2727. The paper is removed from the thesis in DUO due to publisher restrictions. The published version is available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817730331|
|Article 3: Bilgrei, O. R. (2019). Community-consumerism: Negotiating risk in online drug communities. Sociology of Health & Illness, published online 23 January 2019. The paper is removed from the thesis in DUO due to publisher restrictions. The published version is available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.12864|