Presentation at 6th International Communication and Media Studies Conference, CRCP, Cyprus

Conference hosted by CRCP, Famagusta, Cyprus, 25-26 November 2021

This morning I (virtually) presented a paper at the 6th International Communication and Media Studies Conference, held at the Centre of Research and Communication for Peace, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta, Cyprus. Many thanks to Hanife and the organising committee for organising such an excellent event.

Panel at 6th International Communication and Media Studies Conference, 26 November 2021

The abstract for my presentation can be found below:

Can machines of hate really facilitate peace? Social media as spaces for intergroup contact in divided societies

As far back as the late sixties, Johann Galtung predicted that the rapid growth of new media technologies would favour associative approaches towards peacebuilding. The assumption was that strategies to keep antagonists apart would likely fail due to the development of more efficient means of communication bringing them closer together. Despite the pervasiveness of platformed racism and hate speech, companies like Facebook frequently claim they provide space for dialogue between social groups traditionally divided along ethnic or sectarian lines. This paper critically evaluates these claims by examining the potential contribution of social media platforms to peacebuilding in divided societies. It does so by reviewing the literature on social media peacebuilding initiatives and assessing whether these platforms constitute shared spaces in which positive relationships between antagonistic groups can be built in deeply divided societies. 

The analysis presented in this paper suggests that these platforms amplify content that reinforces tribalism and political partisanship, thus making it harder to promote reconciliation in divided societies.  Drawing primarily on the case of Northern Ireland, a society still transitioning out of a thirty-year ethno-nationalist conflict, the paper suggests that the negative stereotyping of outgroups on social media militates against one of the key tenets of reconciliation, namely that citizens treat each other as individuals rather than anonymous members of the ‘other’ community. Therefore, ‘supervised’ online contact projects, revolving around the use of non-commercial platforms and culminating in face-to-face communication, are much more effective in building peace than the contact facilitated by online platforms such as Facebook.

The slides for the presentation can be viewed below:

Chapter published in Routledge Handbook for Political Journalism

LSE Blog on Greek photojournalism, 2020

Anastasia Veneti, Darren Lilleker and I have a chapter out today in the Routledge Companion to Political Journalism, edited by James Morrison, Jen Birks and Mike Berry.

This international edited collection brings together the latest research in political journalism, examining the ideological, commercial and technological forces that are transforming the field and its evolving relationship with news audiences. Comprising 40 original chapters written by a mix of leading scholars and early-career researchers from around the world, the book offers topical insights from the disciplines of political science, media, communications and journalism. Drawing on interviews, textual analysis, quantitative statistical methods and a range of other empirical and theoretical approaches, the volume is divided into six parts, each focusing on a major theme in the contemporary study of political journalism. Topics covered include far-right media, populism, local political journalism practices, public engagement, audience participation, agenda setting, and advocacy and activism in journalism, with case studies drawn from the United Kingdom, Hungary, Russia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sub-Saharan Africa, Italy, Brazil, the United States, Greece and Spain.

More information on the book is available here.

The abstract for our chapter can be found below:

The importance of space in photojournalist accounts of the anti-austerity protests in Greece

Although it is widely recognised that images play a key role in contentious politics, there remains little research into the spatial factors that shape photojournalist practice during political protests. This paper explores the interactions between photojournalists, police and protesters during public demonstrations, with a specific focus on how space and the (physical) positioning of the former influences their practices. By adopting an interdisciplinary approach drawing on the literature on the social production of space (Lefebvre, 1967), Tilly’s (2003) the spatial perspective on contentious politics, photography (Azoulay, 2012), and photojournalism, our research questions are addressed through an empirical study of photojournalists active in Greece since 2010. The chapter presents the results of a critical thematic analysis of 20 semi-structured interviews conducted with Greek photojournalists between 2015 and 2016. These perspectives are explored in this study due to the frequency with which Greek anti-austerity protests have led to violent confrontations between police and protesters. Our findings show that accessibility to protest spaces, the relationships between professional photographers and other actors involved in protests as well as space affordances constitute vital components of the final visual outcomes that are published and ignite political imaginations about such events.

Many thanks to the fantastic editorial team for their help with the chapter and congratulations on what is a must-read for those interested in political journalism!

If you would like a preprint copy of the paper please feel free to email me.

Review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society published by Hub for Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding

Digital Contention in a Divided Society, published January 2021

The third review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society has been published by the Hub for Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding (HCPB). 

Some excerpts are below:

“As Reilly explains, social media can be considered as vital during the mobilisation of social movements. This view can be seen as a critique to clicktivism because even though there are ‘dangers’ that online platforms may increase division and tension between groups, Reilly argues that there is a chance and hope that, by looking at the Northern Irish case, one can argue that there would be more engagement and interactions between opponent groups in the future”

“Reilly’s study is very useful to discuss how politics and digital citizenship take place in contentious times in divided societies. Whether social media are a part of the ‘problem’ or encourage dialogue between opposing groups, he uses mixed research methods to strengthen his study”

“His work is very rich not only in terms of its literature but also its research methods and techniques and the way he elaborates such a complex situation in a clear way without simplifying the issue. Even though the book uses Northern Ireland as a case study, it is very useful for any kind of study that focuses on digital citizenship and activism as well as digital democracy and how divided societies and groups use social media in the age of digital world”. 

I am very grateful to Dr. Hakan Karahasan (ARUCAD) for this very generous review. It can be read below:

Video of ARUCAD seminar now available online

Webinar at ARUCAD, 2 November 2021.

Last week I spoke to Dr. Hakan Karahasan, Head of the Department of Advertising Design and Communication as part of the seminar series at the Arkin University of Creative Arts and Design (ARUCAD). Many thanks to Hakan and his colleagues for hosting this talk.

The video can be watched below:

Invited book talk at Arkin University of Creative Arts and Design

Book talk, Arkin University, 2 November 2021

This afternoon I will be delivering a Webinar at Arkın University of Creative Arts and Design. Hosted by Dr. Hakan Karashan, I will be discussing some of the key findings from my recently published book Digital Contention in a Divided Society.

The Webinar will be streamed live on the ARUCAD Facebook and YouTube channels from 12pm UK time (2pm Cyprus time).

Many thanks to Hakan for the invitation and I look forward to our conversation on digital citizenship, activism and politics later.

Part-Time Research Associate (fixed term) sought for project on Twitter and ‘Brexit riots’ in Northern Ireland

I am looking to employ a Sheffield student as a Part-Time Research Associate on a project.

The aim is to investigate the key broadcasters and gatekeepers in this hashtag, which was used during the anti-Protocol riots in Northern Ireland in April 2011.

The Research Associate will conduct a Social Network Analysis to identify and visualise key broadcasters and broadcasters in #brexitriots. They would also produce time-series graph, code the most shared URLs and do some qualitative analysis of original Tweet.

A total of 60 hours are available for this position, with the work due to be completed by 31 March 2022. Ideally I am looking for someone with experience of SNA and visualising Twitter networks.

Please note this opportunity is only available to current Sheffield students and recent graduates i.e. those who’ve graduated within the last 3 years who have a graduate account.

Further details on how to apply for the the role can be found here.

Digital Contention review in Journal of Communication

Digital Contention in a Divided Society, out now with Manchester University Press

The second review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society has been published in Journal of Communication (Impact Factor 7.270, rated 6 out of 94 in Communication).

Some excerpts are below:

“Overall this study represents a significant contribution to the discussion about the evolving relationship between social media, contentious politics, and social media movements in post-conflict societies. It is a solid contribution to test the polysemic nature of Twitter hashtags and their capacity to mobilize affective publics in contested and polarized social media environments”

“Reilly’s book is invaluable when it mentions the unprecedented opportunities for citizens to engage in areas such as sousveillance in the face of reporting perceived police violence. Reilly’s work joins the ranks of upcoming scholarly work relevant in the field such as Denisova (2019), Ozduzen (2020), and El Issawi (2021). It is a brilliant example of adding to the author’s previous work (2010) building upon field research and data mining techniques and able to define its own strengths and limitations of the approach”.

“It is a perfect academic study for identifying public engagement in the times of the dysfunctional politics searching for reconciliation through new conceptual tools like silly citizenship in post-Brexit Irish border that will remain disputed in the years to come”.

I am very grateful to Murat Akser (Ulster University) for this very generous review. It can be read below;

Digital Contention in a Divided Society is out now and can be purchased in eBook and hardback formats here

Interview about Facebook and polarisation on YLE News (Finland)

Interviewed by Egan Richardson, YLE News (Finland) about Facebook and polarisation

This week I was interviewed by Egan Richardson for the All Points North podcast on YLE News (Finland). In light of the decision by YLE News to stop comments on its Facebook posts, we discussed the role of social media platforms in amplifying polarisation and the efficacy of their responses to problems such as hate speech and misinformation. I argued that online platforms often engage in PR exercises to deal with issues such as hate speech and misinformation. Self-regulation is an insufficient policy response to online harms.

A blogpost summarising the interview can be read here and the audio can be accessed here (the segment begins around 16:30).

Many thanks to Egan for the invitation and the interesting chat- great to see a former #digiadvocate doing so well in their career!

Elected Vice-Chair of IAMCR Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group

IAMCR Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group

I have recently been elected Vice-Chair of the IAMCR Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group. Many congratulations to Virpi Salojärvi for becoming Chair of the WG, and to all the other candidates who stood during the recent elections. The results can be viewed here

Details on the WG can be found here. If you would like to get involved, please do drop me an email at p.j.reilly@sheffield.ac.uk. I look forward to working with members of the WG for the next four years.

Politics, Protest, Emotion available in Sheffield University Pressbook Network

Politics, Protest, Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, out now on Sheffield Pressbooks

In 2017 I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Dima Atanasova (Lancaster University) and Dr. Anastasia Veneti (Bournemouth University) on an edited book of blogs entitled ‘Politics, Protest, Emotions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives‘.

The book has recently been made available as the inaugural entry in the newly constituted University of Sheffield Pressbooks Network. Many thanks to Maria Mawson and Helen Moore for arranging this. I look forward to working with the Network to promote the use of Pressbooks as a publishing platform for Open Educational Resources this year.

The book can now be accessed here