Steven Hersee

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis analyses the different securitisations of cyberspace by the Digital Rights Community (DRC) and the British state. It considers both the internal and external characteristics of these securitisations, covering the power relations between a variety of securitising actors and their audiences and the use of language and metaphor to construct cyberspace threats. It considers the consequences of these securitisations, paying particular attention to the interplay between threats to national security and threats to digital rights, which are often framed as competitive and mutually exclusive.

After considering the competitive nature of these securitisations, this work frames the conflict as a security dilemma, which has resulted in a spiralling, legal, public relations and technological conflict between the British state and the DRC. This has led to distrust, enmity, an inability to co-operate and a sub-optimal outcome for both national security and digital rights. The characteristics of this Cyber Security Dilemma (CSD) are analysed to help understand why it has arisen, why it has become so intense and why it is proving difficult to mitigate or transcend. Fear, uncertainty and a failure to appreciate the concerns of the other side are established as the most significant causes of the conflict.

This thesis draws on historical examples, theoretical material and examples from the television show Hunted, where the researcher was both performer and ethnographer. Techniques to help resolve the CSD are discussed, with attention paid to the need for trust building, interpersonal bonding and security dilemma sensibility. Current and historical attempts to resolve the issue are analysed for their effectiveness and a range of principles are proposed to help guide future approaches to the issue. These include the need to establish trust, work in collaboration with others, reject extreme rhetoric and raise the quality of the debate.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Adey, Peter, Supervisor
  • Martin, Keith M., Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019


  • Cyber Security
  • Encryption
  • Digital Rights
  • Security Dilemma
  • Securitisation
  • Information Security

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