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Australia, Bluelight, Discourse, Policy and Drug Users: A research project

Wile E. Peyote

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[Tronica's edit: Please note that Liam sought and obtained approval for his study from Bluelight admins and AusDD moderators: myself, spacejunk & drug_mentor]

The purpose of this thread is to include AusDD participants in my research process.

I want to know what you like, or don't like about my research project.

This project aims to consider the relationship between the Australian Bluelight community and drug policy, and to contemplate how policy can develop greater sensitivity towards problematised social groups. Over seven years of unstructured, informal, participant engagement with online drug users will ground analysis.

The Australian Drug Discussion forum represents the most dense online discussion of drug use relating to Australia. This makes AusDD a promising context in which to investigate the relationship between online drug users and Australian drug policy.

In simple terms, analysis will consider the relationship between specific areas of drug policy change and AusDD content. For example;

One area of drug policy change in focus is cannabis policy between 2010 and 2016. I will identify cannabis relevant posts from this time period, and then reduce these to posts concerning cannabis and politics. Such posts will connect cannabis to either;
a) A political process i.e. 'vote'; 'advocate'; 'reform' etc.
b) A policy model i.e. 'democracy'; 'welfare'; 'prohibition' etc.
c) Broad sociocultural groupings i.e. 'human'; 'everyone'; 'society' etc.
d) Specific policy changes emphasised concerning a cannabis policy timeline I have constructed from Hughes' illicit drug timeline and the NCPIC's medical cannabis timeline.

Following cannabis, the second area of change focused on will be analogue/new drug policy. Additional policy areas will be determined as the project develops.

A more detailed overview of the project can be found here;
<https://anonlineaustraliandrugdiscussion.wordpress.com/>.

Different people have different expectations of their privacy when acting online, and I want to manage these expectations respectfully throughout this project. I anticipate that when writing their posts, some users did not expect to be research participants. For this reason I am encouraging any user with posts contained in AusDD to contact me should they wish to have their posts omitted from the study.

I also want to respect the contribution that the Bluelight community is making to this research project, and for this reason I am also requesting contact from users who wish to have their username made identifiable in products of this study.

Active users who do not make contact will have their username and posts anonymised, while posts made by inactive users will be excluded from the study.

Should you wish to discuss this issue of privacy, or another project related matter I can be reached via PM,
through this thread,
the project blog <anonlineaustraliandrugdiscussion.wordpress.com>,
or email <[email protected]>.

Cheers,

Liam Engel
 
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Verybuffed

Bluelighter
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Did you have this approved by the mods before you posted it?

Please omit my posts from your study.
 

Tronica

Director of Research
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Did you have this approved by the mods before you posted it?

Yes, Liam sought approval from myself and then in discussion with AusDD mods spacejunk and drug_mentor, all agreed that the study was worthwhile and should go ahead. I have also been added to Liam's supervisor team (as an advisor on community matters).

While many research projects occur using Bluelight data without any attempt to gain consent from individual contributors, Liam wishes to engage with the community, provide an option for people not to participate, as well as a space for people to provide feedback on this ideas. It's the way I would hope that more of the research community would seek to engage online communities in future.

I'll also monitor this thread and am happy to provide more information about Bluelight's broader policies towards research, if that's helpful to folks here.
 

drug_mentor

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The Australian Drug Discussion moderator team fully endorse this study. Personally, I think it is really positive and exciting that the discussions which have taken place in this forum are going to be included in this kind of research.

Given the subject matter which we discuss in this forum I can understand that some may feel a bit apprehensive about having their usernames and/or posts included. However, this is a publicly accessible website and the inclusion of this information in an academic study does not undermine your anonymity here. I would strongly encourage anybody who is considering opting out to read more about the study before making up their mind. My understanding is that one of the primary aims of this research is to gain a better understanding of how harm reduction information and services can be delivered in a more innovative manner, and that is something we should all care deeply about here on bluelight.
 

spacejunk

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Given the subject matter which we discuss in this forum I can understand that some may feel a bit apprehensive about having their usernames and/or posts included. However, this is a publicly accessible website and the inclusion of this information in an academic study does not undermine your anonymity here. I would strongly encourage anybody who is considering opting out to read more about the study before making up their mind. My understanding is that one of the primary aims of this research is to gain a better understanding of how harm reduction information and services can be delivered in a more innovative manner, and that is something we should all care deeply about here on bluelight.
I concur, and have the same impressions overall as drug_mentor.

Personally, i really hope that people are willing to support and take part in this research project - because it contributes valuable information, not only to the academic side of the harm minimisation efforts in Australia - but also seeks to undertake a meaningful analysis of the particular role Bluelight plays within the context of various political and social aspects of debates around drugs in this country - which to me is a rather exciting study to be a part of. I also really hope to able to read some of Liam's observations conclusions when the study is complete.

As drug_mentor says, this study proposal most certainly was discussed and enthusiastically approved by drug_mentor and myself.
I have a great deal of respect for Tronica's work (as well as her professional and academic perspectives - and judgement) - so i must admit would be disappointed if a lot of AusDD's regular posters opt not to take part in this study - not just for the reasons tronica and d_m mention above, but also because our core group of Austraian Drug Discussion "regulars" or "active users" has shrunk considerably in the last few years (presumably for a number of reasons that don't necessarily reflect the nature or quality of bluelight itself) - meaning individual feedback and contributions are all the more valuable.

I encourage people to look at this with an open mind, as i cannot personally see the stufy raising any particular issues regarding privacy or security that aren't already present in a forum of this nature.

When i have some time to make a more constructive post in this thread, i look forward to doing so - but i just wanted to add my voice to the reassurances above.

If you need any assistance, Liam, please don't hesitate to drop me a private message - though i'm sure tronica is as good a staff member to turn to as anyone else on bluelight.
All the best with the project, mate. :)
 

Verybuffed

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Would have been a good idea to announce that it was approved by the mods as it was posted. I logged in and see the post put up by Greenlighter with one post. Reminded exactly of what channel 7 tried that forced the rule change.

With respect, please omit all of my info.
 

Tronica

Director of Research
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Would have been a good idea to announce that it was approved by the mods as it was posted.

I'll take responsibility for that one - should have added it to Liam's draft when sent to me - I knew it was necessary, of course. It is added now. Apologies - I have occasionally let some details slip of late.
 

Wile E. Peyote

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Blue Mountains
Thanks for the support guys, and thank you, Verybuffed, for letting me know your desire to opt out of the study. I anticipate that there will be others who share this desire, and I want to manage this issue of privacy ethically. I hope that you maintain your attention to this thread and to my project as they develop. I require critical perspectives to improve the sensitivity of my research and of drug policy towards drug users, and I apologise for not making my relationship with Bluelight clearer in the initial post.
 

swilow

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Interesting project. What is referred to by an 'enabling' environment? Would Bluelight fall under such a descriptor?

If privacy is a huge concern, the project should probably be opt-in, rather than opt-out. I can't really say whether I would consent or not without knowing the context a bit more, but I recognise this isn't all that feasible and Bluelight is a public forum and that I don't really own my Bluelight ramblings. Thank fuck. :D

In short, do what you will. Good luck. I'd be interested to see any excerpts or something from this once complete (or even at 'beta' stage).
 

Wile E. Peyote

Greenlighter
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Blue Mountains
Thanks for your interest swilow,

The enabling environments concept is a blue print for policy design – it can be used to think about how rules and regulations might be designed in ways that are supportive of and sensitive towards groups that experience social problematisations (via discrimination, stigmatisation, marginalisation, etc.).

Cameron Duff has done excellent research using this concept. The enabling environments concept requires a balance of distribution of two types of resources in the political management of problematised groups; 1) harm reduction and 2) agency.

Harm reduction emphasises hazards associated with a problematised group, such as the provision of injecting equipment to drug users in response to HIV and hepatitis.

Agency emphasises unique powers associated with a problematised group and focuses on enhancing political influence of the group i.e. the inclusion of drug user perspectives in policy making.

In terms of drug users and Australian drug policy, there has been a distribution of some harm reduction resources in response to the consequences of drug use, but comparably little distribution of agency resources supporting drug users.

The enabling environments concept can be used to understand Bluelight as more than a singular harm reduction resource. For example, Bluelight provides informational harm reduction resources relating to consumption safety, as well as social and affective agency resources relating to community and public discussion. In this sense, Bluelight is a valuable enabling environment for drug users from which Australia can learn valuable lessons in policy design.

Unfortunately it is impossible to make contact with all AusDD participants to determine if they want to opt in or out of the project. This makes any analysis of an online forum very difficult. I have worked with Bluelight staff and created this thread in an effort to gain participation consent, but I anticipate that there will be a number of participants with whom communication and thus consent is not possible. I have been feeling it is ethical to include these participants, with precautions. What do you think?

My planned precautions include anonymisation in any published material resulting from this study, and changing usernames in the primary data set to random, unique ID numbers.

I will be posting material in this thread as the project continues – I really do want to involve the Bluelight community in this research as much as possible.
 
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Wile E. Peyote

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Graph 1 plots Australian Drug Discussion posts according to the year published. These posts (occurring before the 14th of October 2016) constitute the data set for this project.

Any thoughts on why there has been a decline in postings over the past few years? Graph 2 breaks down these posts made since 2014 according to their annual quarter.

Graph 1


Graph 2
 

Crankinit

Bluelighter
Joined
Sep 17, 2007
Messages
6,175
- Message boards in general are dying out in favor of faster paced and more easily accessible social media (FB/twitter/instagram/reddit/etc).

- A lot of the long term posters who maintained the community have stopped contributing for various reasons (burnout after a modding phase, getting sober and moving away from the HR scene, etc)

- The tone of AUDD in particular has shifted, becoming less social and more focused on pure HR (compare it to EUDD and see the difference in the tone and frequency of posting). The mods have made their argument for this, and I think it's not an unfair one, but it does have the effect of reducing the amount that users post, and reducing poster retention in general.
 

Tronica

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I think that for a long time, message boards were winning out against social media, e.g. Facebook, because peopel didn't want to talk about drugs on Facebook.
But now we have had a shift in the type of social media. E.g. things like Telegram where you can have a private group of 20-30 people (or larger I'm sure) of people that you can natter to about anything and everything, including drug discussions. While it's not the same (not searchable and not long form) I think the shift in options for online discussion is definitely a big reason for the change in AusDD.
 

Tronica

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But I'm not sure if any of this signals the 'death of Bluelight'. Perhaps just a morphing into something else. And also, bluelight could better utilise these other modes of communicate. Bluelight still gets very high ranking in search engines when you are searching for drug terms so we get a lot of people come that don't post, but just read. So, the audience and the amount of interaction has changed a lot of time, in my opinion.
 

drug_mentor

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I really don't know why the traffic has dipped so heavily, there might be something to the suggestion that other social media platforms have something to do with it, that isn't something I have much experience with, but I do have a hard time imagining that they could effectively replicate the kind of resource we have here.

- The tone of AUDD in particular has shifted, becoming less social and more focused on pure HR (compare it to EUDD and see the difference in the tone and frequency of posting). The mods have made their argument for this, and I think it's not an unfair one, but it does have the effect of reducing the amount that users post, and reducing poster retention in general.

To my mind, Australian Drug Discussion was always more purely HR focused than the other regional forums, particularly EADD, which has had an overtly social aspect for as long as I can recall. In saying that, I have never been a regular in the other regional forums, so perhaps my perception/memory are a little off-base. In recent years we have tried to shift things in a more social direction, we reopened the social thread in late 2015 and it received very little interest, and we also started allowing less HR focused threads, albeit not to the same extent or of the same overtly social nature as EADD allows. Perhaps these efforts were too little too late, but given that explicitly social threads were not allowed for most of the time that AusDD was thriving I have a bit of a hard time believing that a lack of social threads has caused traffic to dip so dramatically. In saying all this, I would support changes which allowed more explicitly social threads in AusDD, at this point it could not do any harm to try it out.
 

Verybuffed

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All the forums are dead these days, it all started about 5 years ago. The majority of info is on Reddit now with some meet ups still done through forums but they are a lot rarer these days.

I check in here about once a week these days as there just aren't any posts anymore unfortunately. Pretty much 100% of the cannabis discussion that used to happen here has been taken elsewhere. That is very concerning especially condsidering the major shift that has happened with Australian cannabis in the last five years.
 

Verybuffed

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In saying all this, I would support changes which allowed more explicitly social threads in AusDD, at this point it could not do any harm to try it out.

I think it is too late, people have moved on. I personally never came to Bluelight for the social threads. I came here for the HR.

- A lot of the long term posters who maintained the community have stopped contributing for various reasons (burnout after a modding phase, getting sober and moving away from the HR scene, etc)

This is the number one reason why I think AUSDD has died. We used to have very well known and respected members of the Australian HR community posting here regularly. That is all gone now with the exception of Tronica. I don't see how we could rebuild that now that people are seeking information in other places.
 
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