Research: Inside The Mind of a File-Sharer

Although survey requests are usually ignored by TorrentFreak staff, we make an exception for Brett Caraway who previously assisted with two TorrentFreak articles.

As a former PhD student I know how hard it can be to get respondents, so if anyone’s willing to help out, the pitch is posted below.

My name is Brett Caraway and I am a graduate student and instructor at the University of Texas at Austin where I teach a course on digital media production and the free culture movement. I also run the website Copygrounds.com with my class where we feature discussions on a number of new media topics. As a part of my dissertation I have spent the last four years researching the Recording Industry Association of America litigation campaign against individual file-sharers.

I am currently seeking participants from the p2p file-sharing community to help me with my research. I am running a short 10-question survey for file-sharers here.

My dissertation focuses on the ways in which everyday people have resisted the tactics used by the music industry to oppose p2p technologies. I am using this online survey to learn more about how p2p file-sharers understand music, the industry, and each other. The most qualified people to shed light on the practice of file-sharing are individuals from the p2p community. There is very little research on this topic and what there is tends to focus on either legal developments or the nuts and bolts of p2p technology. On the one hand there are scholars who emphasize the economic, political, and legal resources mobilized by groups like the RIAA. These scholars tend to paint a very depressing picture in which the practice of file-sharing is effectively marginalized. On the other hand there are scholars who emphasize the technological development of p2p networks by both commercial and noncommercial groups. This type of work is generally good but doesn’t position p2p in a broader social context.

My own work on p2p falls somewhere in between. I believe that the effectiveness of litigation campaigns like the one launched by the RIAA is limited by the social practices adopted by file-sharers in spite of the threat of legal action. In other words, if you want to understand the forces determining the shape of music production and distribution, you don’t go asking the RIAA. You ask people in the p2p community. So if you can find it in your heart to help a poor academic out, please click the above link. If you have questions about my research or want to participate via other means than SurveyMonkey feel free to contact me at: brettcaraway ‘at’ mail.utexas.edu.

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