The “Social Network” Riots | Oxford Open Learning

The Riots – The “Social Network” Riots

In the light of the recent UK riots, one of Oxford Open Learning’s tutors considers the impact of social networks on the riots.

The “Social Network” Riots: Sociological and Psychological Views on the Involvement of Social Networking in Last Month’s Riots

We commented in the last blog looking at the riots from a sociological angle that rioting is not a new phenomenon. In the recent riots in the UK, people were encouraged to join the riots through social networking sites such as facebook, twitter and blackberry messenger.  This is not new either.

Peace marches and demonstrations can sometimes become violent and turn into riots. New Social Movements (NSMs) have become involved in organising and coordinating activity on the internet. This was shown in Genoa at the 2001 G8 summit.

These riots have been called the first “social network” riots.  The use of these social networks has enabled rioters to plan and organise riots on a scale that might never have happened before. People who wouldn’t necessarily have been aware of where riots would occur have now had that information given to them via social networks. Potential rioters now know when and where fellow rioters will be going.  This has caused much unrest in Europe and the UK. Social networks have now enabled rioters to organise quickly.

NSMs work in a different way from other older forms of social movements.  They are more likely to engage in direct action, such as rioting, sit-ins or demonstrations. They are also more likely to make more use of the media to make their cause heard.  Cyber-networking is also part of this. Cyber-networking is the use of emails, blogs, social networking sites and forums to organise demonstrations quickly. This then makes it hard for the authorities to respond quickly enough or plan their response well.

Tracey Jones


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