About Paul Reilly

Digital politics scholar studying N.Irish online communities, online research ethics, social media and sousveillance. Views are my own.

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

ECREA presentation exploring #thetroubles on Instagram #ecrea2021

an example of Don McCullin’s iconic photojournalism during the Troubles

Last year I wrote a blogpost on a project exploring how Instagram is used to share photographs of the Northern Irish Troubles. This morning I presented preliminary findings from this work at the 8th European Communication Conference organised by ECREA.

My talk was part of a panel entitled ‘Emotions, rituals and memories’, which should be made available later to watch on the conference platform.

The abstract for the paper is below:

Conflicting Memory and Social Media: Memorialising the Northern Irish Troubles on Instagram

Photosharing app Instagram provides unprecedented opportunities for distributing photographs challenging the ‘official memory’ of conflict. The ‘connective turn’ not only renders conflict photography searchable, but aggregates the memories of  traumatised communities. This paper adds to the nascent literature in this area by exploring how Instagram is used to share photographs of the Northern Irish ‘Troubles,’ a low-intensity conflict that resulted in 3,600 fatalities and left many more bereaved, injured and traumatized. Twenty years after the Agreement, Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided society in which competing narratives over the conflict and its constitutional status remain deeply entrenched. This study explored the visual representation of these narratives on Instagram, with a specific focus on the type of images shared and the comments they generated from other Instagrammers. A content and visual framing analysis of 100 historical images tagged #thetroubleswas conducted between August and December 2019 in order to explore these issues. Results indicate that images of everyday life during the conflict, such as children playing in desolate urban landscapes, and British soldiers, typically depicted holding weapons against a backdrop of civil unrest, were the most prominent visual representations under this hashtag. Those shared by British army veterans depicting their experiences typically sparked a polarised debate between pro-British and pro-republican commenters on the origins of the conflict. While the affordances of Instagram broaden participation in processes of memorialization, they also lay bare the absence of a shared narrative on the violent past in ‘post-conflict’ societies such as Northern Ireland.

The slides can be viewed below:

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

IAMCR Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group

The International Association for Media and Communication Researchers (IAMCR) are hosting their elections for Section and Working Group Heads over the summer. I am standing as Vice-Chair for the Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group, with the (online) vote due to close on 14 September (less than two weeks to go).

Details on the WG, and how to vote, can be found here

My election statement can be found below:

I am a Senior Lecturer in Social Media & Digital Society at the University of Sheffield. My research focuses on social media sousveillance, digital activism and the use of digital media to promote better community relations in divided societies. Although I am primarily a qualitative researcher, I have also used Social Network Analysis to explore key broadcasters and gatekeepers within crisis hashtags, such as #PorteOuverte. 

I have been a member of IAMCR for the past six years, presenting my work at Leicester, Cartagena, Madrid and Nairobi (virtually) as part of panels organised by the Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication Working Group at Leicester, Cartagena.  I have always been particularly impressed by the diversity of the sessions organised by Rikke, Virpi and the team, which demonstrate the broad range of case studies, theoretical frameworks, and research methods in the field of crisis communication. During this time, the Working Group has excelled at facilitating collaborations between communication researchers based in countries as diverse as Australia, Chile,  Nigeria and South Africa. A cursory glance at the research interests  of members neatly illustrates its value as a ‘meeting point’ for scholars working in journalism studies, media and communication studies, and political communication.

If elected Vice-Chair, I would work with the Chair to promote the activities, accomplishments and publications of Group members. This would include drafting the call for papers,  reviewing abstracts and organising panels for the annual conference,  co-editing special issues of journals like Media, War and Conflict based on these papers, and increasing membership of the Group. My experience chairing panels at conferences e.g. ECPR, MeCCSA would also enable me to fulfil similar duties at IAMCR events. I believe it is vitally important that the diversity of the Group is consolidated, and would be happy to mentor early career researchers, particularly those from outside Europe and North America, who are new to presenting at international conferences.  I would also advocate trying to increase the number of crisis communication practitioners active within the Group, perhaps as part of a seminar series in the run-up to the annual conference. 

Drawing on my recent experience as Social Media and Publicity Officer for the MeCCSA Policy Network, I would prioritise building the Group’s social media presence, with a specific focus on using Twitter to curate a list of members and promote their work online. YouTube could also be used to share videos of both in-person and online seminars sponsored by the Group throughout the academic year.  Finally, I would explore the possibility of creating a mailing list in order to encourage members to share updates on their research activities. My experience to date suggests that these initiatives would consolidate the identity of the group whilst also encouraging future collaborations between its members. 

I am happy to answer any questions from members should they wish to contact me using the details below.

Stay safe and well.

Paul Reilly
Email: p.j.reilly@sheffield.ac.uk
Twitter: @PaulJReilly

Video of PSA MPG ‘in conversation’ now available

Digital Contention in a Divided Society, MUP 2021.

Last week I spoke to Dr Emily Harmer (University of Liverpool) about my new book, Digital contention in a divided society – Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland, as part of the Political Studies Association Media and Politics Group Seminar Series.

The video can be watched below:

Video of PSA MPG event

Many thanks to Emily and James Dennis (University of Portsmouth) for organising the event- I really enjoyed it!

Video: IAMCR panel on communication and peacebuilding

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.

Poster advertising IAMCR panel

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

Abstract

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):

IAMCR panel on communication and peacebuilding

Thanks to Virpi for putting this panel together and please do email me if you want more details about our paper.

PSA MPG Seminar – in conversation with Emily Harmer

Digital Contention in a Divided Society, published in January 2021

I will be discussing Digital contention in a divided society – Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland next week (14 July, 4-5pm), as part of the Political Studies Association Media and Politics Group Seminar Series. I will be in conversation with Dr Emily Harmer (University of Liverpool), where we will no doubt discuss issues of mutual interest such as the growth of online incivility surrounding contemporary political movements (please do check out Emily’s research in this area). There will also be an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.

Many thanks to Emily and the PSA MPG organisers for the opportunity to participate in the series. Details on how to register for the event can be found here

The Conversation article on social media and NI protests published

Paul Faith/PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

The Conversation UK have published an essay of mine on how to follow Northern Irish protests on social media. Drawing on my research on the union flag protests, Ardoyne parade dispute and my recently published book, I argue that we should all be careful about what we share on sites like Facebook and Twitter during the marching season. Key tips such as ‘Check before you share’, ‘know who to follow’ and ‘play the ball, not the person’ are shared in the piece. I also recommend following journalists and factchecking organisations such as FactCheckNI in order to counter the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

Many thanks to Victoria Wood for helping with the pitch and Avery Anapol for providing feedback on the final version. The post can be viewed here