File-sharing collectives have significantly disrupted models of digital media distribution since their emergence and widespread popularization in the late 1990s. This study investigates how semi-anonymous and decentralized collectives construct their communities of practice. Conducting a case study of a private torrenting community, data were gathered via participant observation, interviews, and online postings (i.e., blogs and forums). Findings challenged dominant notions of opportunism, selfishness and task-oriented individualism advanced by Human–Computer Interaction scholars. Three key constructs were identified in private torrent community building: boundary construction, membership maintenance, and a sense of belonging and solidarity. Findings illustrate how a file-sharing community cultivates the formation of prosocial digital peers, fosters an affective approach to peer-to-peer collectives, and ultimately forges a downloading virtuoso community. This sisyphean, goal-oriented community seeks to create a comprehensive archive of media artifacts independent of and in opposition to dominant corporate platforms. The community demonstrates a downloading culture inspired by technological design, yet driven by trust and solidarity.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
- Virtual ethnography
- deviant communities
- digital downloads
- online culture
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Library and Information Sciences