The aim of this new section of the Harm Reduction Journal is to present findings on novel and transformative harm reduction practices and contexts taking place in a digital or online setting, or through other related means.
The background for this section is the evolving digital society which generates new methods and settings for harm reduction and the user voice. The harm reduction approach in this context will mean a range of interventions, some of which will be established methods now mediated digitally, and some will be interventions that rely wholly on digital methods and that would not be possible otherwise.
We think of the digital as a many-faceted hybrid of platforms, devices, interfaces and data driven infrastructures that is intertwined into everyday life. We think of online as any activity that is mediated by digital systems, covering the myriad of relevant platforms from chatrooms to messaging apps to TikTok.
There is no definitive distinction between the on and offline, as the digital society seeps into every aspect of harm reduction practice and users’ lives. The digital provides new capacities for harm reduction services which we want to recognize, and also new threats in the form of surveillance and algorithm-led decision-making which can reinforce existing biases. Digital and online approaches can bridge distances and divides, and recreate inequalities and exploitation.
This section will be a place where harm reduction approaches can be studied in that context. We invite submissions around but not limited to the following themes:
- Online user communities and activism, the ethics and politics of online harm reduction delivery, digital divides and inequalities in access and abilities, and legislation and policies impacting online harm reduction
- Health and support delivery and monitoring provided through digital means and provision of digital and web outreach services
- Affordances and risks of digital technology for harm reduction, and challenges of novel systems in harm reduction such as AI and machine learning. Changes in the digital society which affect users such as the introduction of algorithmic decision-making into criminal justice systems
- Services delivered through apps, bots and the other means of online interactions with users, and hybrid harm reduction using online and face to face methods. Changed locations of harm reduction practice in the light of digital and online support such as the home and the street
- Research methods using digital data infrastructures and capacities, such as big data analytics, netnography, digital trace methods and others, and challenges and opportunities related to the sharing and dissemination of data (for example, drug alerts/drug checking data) for online harm reduction
- Changes in the context user groups operate in and the resulting changing risk landscape such as remote sex work, online drug purchase and delivery, virtual co-presence in alcohol and drug consumption (trip sitting) and the myriad other ways the digital and online worlds reshape the lives of service user communities
- Intersections with other systems in digital contexts such as policing, health care, and digital platform management