Tag Archives: silk road

Target Practice: Who are we talkin’ to?

I think we’ve pretty much narrowed out idea (finally) down to the problem of anonymity in the online environment. What this means is, we have to start thinking about our target audience and who we are actually speaking to with this feature (“You talkin’ to me?” says DeNiro). 

Dean (2010) sees blogs (and by extension, I guess, online features) as emerging out of a missing “subject supposed to know”. If we view our blog in this way, what we want to provide information to people who think The Silk Road is completely anonymous and either want to access it or are skeptical of it because of this fact. As users usually don’t find exactly what they want from a Google search (i.e. they don’t search the semantics of a query as shown by Finkelstein (2008)) our feature will pop up as a related and important source of information to keep these users informed about the real mechanics of data collection and potential tracking and whether or not you can really be anonymous online. 



Seth Finkelstein (2008) ‘Google, Links and Popularity vs Authority’. The Hyperlinked Society, Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui (eds) University of Michigan Press. pp. 104-120.

Jodi Dean (2010) ‘The Death of Blogging’ in Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive. London: Polity.

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Silk Road and the Ideology of P2P

This week’s readings made me think about how the ideology behind the Silk Road (whose philosophy is summarised on their Facebook page – “You may buy anything you desire or sell anything you desire. You have total Freedom and Liberty to do as you see fit to do! A true Agorist vision”) matches with some of the ideology behind P2P programs and how there is, as Vaidhyanathan (2004) states, a dichotomy between access values and property values.

In the case of the Silk Road though, it’s not really property values but rather moral values about the illegality of drugs. Users believe that it is their right to be able to access ‘free culture’ through the consumption of illicit drugs. The Silk Road is decentralised (anyone can sell, no one knows who runs it), antiauthoritarian, difficult to manage (the use of Tor, anonymity and Bitcoin management) and extensible in that it can be accessed by anyone that’s ever done a Google search.

Maybe one thing that really connects the two besides through this ideology is the fact that it is an anonymous (mostly anyway) act of resistance from ‘market’ and social norms. Would you steal a car or go to a seedy alleyway to meet a dealer? Or would you rather download something secretly in your jimjams at home or get it expressly delivered to your home without anyone (theoretically) knowing?


Siva Vaidhyanathan (2004) ‘The Ideology of Peer-to-Peer’, The Anarchist in the Library. Basic Books: New York.

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A stunt?

After the presentation I threw around a few ideas about maybe demonstrating hype by creating our own curiosity experiment and then counting how many people checked it out. I don’t know exactly how this will help our problem (see posts below) but it’ll be a way of making people come to our feature and make a point about how the media are inadvertently advertising the black marketplace through a hit counter or something.

In the meantime I found that one of the websites that lists the instructions of how to get onto the Silk Road website had tracking widgets on their sidebar. The uselessly named ‘mainstream los’ blog not only features really aggressively named songs on a playlist, but also has a graphic tracking where all the visitors come from and presenting this information visually.


If we do something similar we could use what this blog used and use a 3rd party service such as FlagCounter to monitor traffic coming to our mock website. It even tells us which of these people are from Australia so that would help with the cause/effect issues of such an experiment. Just an idea.

SIDE NOTE: Wow it is HARD to keep these blogs down to 100 words.

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Conceptually mapping my journey down The Silk Road


You know what really helps narrow down ideas? An imaginary mind map. There are so many ways we can approach this topic:

  • Behind the Scenes – I think it’s really interesting that the people involved with the black marketplace use liberalisation and democratic discourse (“FREEDOM!”) to justify their operations. But of course, the community is not even sure who or how many people started it let alone them being available for a quick chat.
  • Media Hype – how the media have ironically resulted in the site having more users. I guess they kind of act like a indirect marketing/PR tool for the site.
  • Anonymity – The ways in which people are being sneaky about it always fascinates me. But then there are also limits it it since Tor crashed and the AFP says that they can track importers. Also, d. boyd’s (2008) notion of “security through obscurity” could be an interesting way of thinking about Silk Road anonymity too.

There are more but I’ve run out of the word limit for this post… Where is my eureka moment?

danah boyd (2008) ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck Exposure, Invasion, and Social Convergence’. Convergence, vol 14(1) pp. 13–20

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