I was delighted to participate in a panel organised by the Hub for Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding and the Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group as part of the International Association for Media and Communication Researchers annual conference last month.
Entitled ‘The fundamental importance of communication in peacebuliding‘, the panel brought together colleagues from Durham, Manchester, Oxford and Sheffield to explore the communicative aspects of peacebuilding.
Diana Dajer (University of Oxford) and I delivered a paper comparing social media and intergroup contact during contentious episodes in Columbia and Northern Ireland. The abstract for our paper is below:
Social media and intergroup contact during contentious episodes in divided societies: Comparative perspectives from Colombia and Northern Ireland
Diana Dajer, University of Oxford
Paul Reilly, University of Sheffield
This paper adds to the emergent literature on social media and intergroup contact in post-conflict societies through a comparative study of contentious episodes in Colombia and Northern Ireland. A qualitative case study approach is used to explore how online social media platforms act as ‘connectors’ and ‘dividers’ in these two societies, both of which remain deeply-divided along sectarian lines despite peace settlements being in place. Using case studies such as the UK EU Referendum and the plebiscite on the Colombian peace agreement (both held in 2016), the paper examines whether there is any evidence of the ‘agonistic pluralism’ envisaged by Mouffe (2013), where former enemies are recast as ‘adversaries’ who respectfully disagree about contentious issues. The cases show that unstructured online contact during contentious episodes was invariably antagonistic, rather than agonistic. Despite initiatives to foster intercommunity dialogue online, pre-existing ‘offline’ polarisation was mirrored and intensified by the affective publics mobilised on social media, with online disinformation and misinformation exacerbating tensions between sectarian communities.
The online conference paper can be found here (please note you will need to registered for the conference to access this).
The panel was recorded and edited by our chair Virpi Salojärvi (University of Vaasa), and can be viewed below (from now until 11 September):
Thanks to Virpi for putting this panel together and please do email me if you want more details about our paper.