The Significance of ‘Things’ in Cybercrime: How to Apply Actor-network Theory in (Cyber)criminological Research and Why it Matters

  • Wytske van der Wagen Assistant Professor at Erasmus University, Department of Criminology
Keywords: actor-network theory, non-human agency, cybercrime, qualitative research methods, ethnography


In recent years computer technologies and digital devices have become ubiquitous in all facets of human existence, including crime and deviant behavior. Various forms of criminality have emerged in which technical entities play a substantial role. It can be argued that such a development urges criminologists and anthropologists to draw more attention to the significance of things in crime. Latour’s (2005) actor-network theory (ANT), which considers non-human entities as active participants of the social, could be a useful approach for extending our analytical focus to the non-human. The article will not only asses why, but also how we can apply ANT as a more-than-human methodology in qualitative research, by discussing three ANT-based methodological principles: ‘follow the tool’, ‘follow the hybrid’ and ‘follow the network.’ In this scope, this article draws on earlier conducted qualitative ANT case studies on different forms of high-tech cybercrime. In a more general vein, the article aims to show that innovations in qualitative research methods can be also informed by theory.