Sam Gaffney


Ph.D. Student in Communication, UC San Diego // 2017 – Present

Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Anthropology, ANU // 2015

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music, ANU // 2010 – 2014

AMusA in Violin Performance, AMEB // 2009


Sam Gaffney is a researcher whose interests meet at the intersection of communication studies, anthropology, and philosophy. Sam’s past research has focused on outsider communities prone to misrepresentation, namely the Canberra bush doof community and the now defunct KickassTorrents piracy community. His research largely responds to the question of how to represent these communities in a way that resonates both with the community’s participants as well as the academic institution.

Sam’s work with the KickassTorrents community culminated in his Honours thesis, From peasants to pirates: a multi-faceted approach to virtual piracy through the moral economy of file sharing. In this thesis, Sam made use of a moral economy framework to argue that pirates’ justications for their practice have roots that far predate the technologies enabling their practice. This approach – an attempt to chart out the confuence of meanings and logics informing a given practice – is something that Sam hopes to continue through his research at UC San Diego.

Sam’s current plan is to explore the application of ethnographic methodology to online communities, with a specifc focus on the communities forming around cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Research Interests

Online communities; digital ethnography; virtuality; illegality; intellectual property; cryptocurrencies; subcultures and countercultures.