The engineer-criminologist and "the novelty of cybercrime": a situated genealogical study of timesharing systems

Stefano De Paoli*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)
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    The Novelty of Cybercrime is a research problem in criminology where scholars are asking whether cybercrime is a wholly new form of crime compared with traditional–terrestrial crimes and whether new criminological theories are needed to understand it. Most criminological theories focus on the human rational aspects and downplay the role of non-humans in explaining what may be novel in cybercrime. This paper shows that a sociotechnical perspective can be developed for understanding the Novelty of Cybercrime using some insights from criminology. Working from the agnosticism principle of Actor-Network Theory and a situated genealogical perspective, it is possible to see that a criminological vocabulary can accommodate both the roles and relations of rational human and non-human actors. This is achieved by proposing the concept of the engineer–criminologist, developed by conducting a study of the development of information security for timesharing systems in the 1960s and 1970s. Timesharing security engineers were facing a completely new form of rule-breaking behaviour, that of unauthorised access and at the same time they were constantly using criminological concepts to shape their design of security and explain this behaviour. The concept of engineer–criminologists affords the use of criminological concepts in the sociotechnical study of the Novelty of Cybercrime.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)20-37
    Number of pages18
    JournalInternet Histories
    Issue number1-2
    Early online date19 Mar 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


    • Novelty of cybercrime
    • Actor-network theory
    • Situational crime prevention
    • Malicious user
    • Information security
    • Engineer-criminologist


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