Information needs of drug users on a local dark web marketplace
Haasio, Ari; Harviainen, J. Tuomas; Savolainen, Reijo (2019)
Harviainen, J. Tuomas
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This study examines the nature of context-sensitive information needs by focusing on the articulations of need for disnormative information among drug users. To this end, the sample of 9300 messages posted to Sipulitori, a Finnish dark web site were examined by means of descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis. The theoretical framework of the study was developed by drawing on Tom Wilson´s idea of information need as a phenomenon fundamentally triggered by physiological, affective and cognitive factors indicating basic human needs. To examine the contextual features of needs for disnormative information, the study made use of Chatman’s theory of information poverty characteristic of small worlds and Savolainen´s model for way of life. The findings indicate that about 72% of the information need topics related to drugs dealt with the usage, availability and price of narcotics. The articulations of drug-related information needs reflected the users´ ways of life dominated by the activities of buying, selling and using illegal narcotics. Drug-related information needs are typically triggered by physiological factors, because of the centrality of the physical dependence on drugs. Our study also revealed the simultaneous existence of physiological, affective and cognitive factors especially in messages in which the information need was articulated in greater detail.