Last week I was interviewed by John Coster (Doc Media Centre) for the Parallel Lives Network’s 16 Days of Activism.
To mark 10 years since the union flag protests in Northern Ireland, we discussed themes from my 2021 book Digital Contention in a Divided Society. I suggested that many of the themes of othering and social media pile-ons remained a key feature of how contentious political issues are framed by online citizens.
We also discussed a wide range of other topics including recent protests in China and Iran, as well as the implications of Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter for how people find out about events like flag protests.
Many thanks to John for the invitation and the engaging chat (as always!). The interview can be viewed below:
Zein Al-Maha Oweis provides a very comprehensive overview of the book’s key themes, from the exploration of how ICTs have transformed contentious politics to the use of affective hashtags to discursively frame hybrid media events. Some quotes from the review are below:
“Reilly’s book focuses on answering the question of how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used by citizens to frame contentious issues in post-conflict Northern Ireland and what this tells us about the potential of information and communication technologies to promote positive intergroup contact in a deeply divided society“
”The book answers the question of how social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are used by citizens to frame contentious issues in post-conflict Northern Ireland as well as establishing connections between Media and Cultural Policy. This line of research which focuses on social media impact on post-conflict societies is an ever-changing field of research and one that is relevant in this day and age opening new research pathways on the subject in the future”
I am very grateful to Zee for such a thoughtful review of the book, which can be read in full here
Kathryn Johnston reflects on how online platforms provide spaces for alternative narratives and more disbursing trends such as the threats against women journalists in Northern Ireland. Some quotes from the review are below:
“This is no arid academic text. Reilly quotes extensively from many of those engaging in debate, referring to them both by their actual names, where appropriate, and their social media identities. That is immensely helpful; and certainly, drawing attention to these narratives and explorations of contested spaces is a rich and profitable seam for all of us to mine”
“Paul Reilly’s book makes an invaluable contribution to the debate on the potential of citizen activity on online platforms to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. It deserves attention”
I am very grateful to Kathryn for such a thoughtful review of the book, which can be read in full below:
Digital Contention in a Divided Society can be purchased here.
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;
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
The NTU Research Centre for the Study of Inequality, Culture and Difference is delighted to welcome Dr Paul Reilly from the University of Sheffield 2-3pm BST on Wednesday 28th April, who will be giving a talk on Social media, parades and protest in a Divided Society: Reflections from post-conflict Northern Ireland.
How are platforms such as Facebook and Twitter used by citizens to frame contentious parades and protests in ‘post-conflict’ Northern Ireland? What do these contentious episodes tell us about the potential of information and communication technologies to promote positive intergroup contact in the deeply divided society? In this paper, I will explore these issues through the first in-depth qualitative exploration of how social media were used during the union flag protests (December 2012-March 2013) and the Ardoyne parade disputes (July 2014 and 2015). I examine the extent to which affective publics, mobilised and connected via expressions of solidarity on social media, appear to escalate or de-escalate sectarian tensions caused by these hybrid media events. I conclude by examining whether citizen activity on these online platforms has the potential to contribute to peacebuilding in divided societies such as Northern Ireland. Bio: Dr. Paul Reilly is Senior Lecturer in Social Media & Digital Society at the University of Sheffield. His research focuses on social media sousveillance, digital activism and the use of digital media to promote better community relations in divided societies. He has written two books on the role of digital media in conflict transformation in Northern Ireland (Framing the Troubles Online and Digital Contention in a Divided Society, both with Manchester University Press). His work has also been published in a number of journals including First Monday, Information, Communication & Society, Journalism, New Media & Society, and Policy & Internet.
There is no registration for the seminar, and you can access it using the link below:
I have an essay in Human:Putting the Social into Science on the role of social media in the recent riots in Northern Ireland. It begins by exploring the factors that have underpinned the protests and related violence seen in Northern Ireland over the past two weeks, including the border created down the Irish Sea by the Northern Ireland Protocol and loyalist accusations about ‘two-tier policing’ in the wake of the PPS decision not to not to recommend any prosecutions for republicans who broke COVID rules during the funeral of senior PIRA member Bobby Storey in June 2020. Like the flag protests eight years ago, these street protests have also articulated increasing loyalist dissatisfaction with the Stormont Assembly and the peace process in general.
Drawing on my recently published book Digital Contention in a Divided Society, I argue that there are comparisons to be made in terms of how online platforms were used during the flag protests. Messages calling for loyalists to “shut down Northern Ireland” have reverberated around Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Videos recorded on smartphones showing the effects of the violence in interface areas have again become a focal point for the anger of online commentators. Mis-and disinformation is once again spreading via these platforms, as demonstrated by messages emanating from false flag accounts urging loyalist youths to “earn their strips” [sic] by engaging in violence. While social media may not be ‘fuelling’ these protests, the speed with which such information circulates presents a formidable challenge to those seeking to keep these demonstrations peaceful. Ultimately, political leadership is required if Northern Ireland is to avoid a contentious marching season this summer.
Thanks to Laura Lightfinch and Victoria Wood for their help with this. The piece can be read here
The first review of Digital Contention in a Divided Society has been published in VIEWdigital this week. Some excerpts are below:
“Dr Reilly’s book highlights the need for ongoing discussions on the role of digital media in societies such as Northern Ireland, which face deep divisions. It is a place where contentious policies developed at polished tables of ministers and civil servants can result in a young person throwing a petrol bomb at a so called ‘peace wall’.
“It is an important addition to research on digital disinformation and misinformation in a society were conflict and division remain worryingly close to the surface”.
I am very grateful to Una Murphy for this very generous review and to both her and Brian Pelan for publishing this piece.