Manchester University Press book launch – 29 January 2021

Digital Contention in a Divided Society

Manchester University Press will be holding a launch event for my book Digital Contention in a Divided Society on 29 January (1-2pm). I will be in conversation with John Coster (Doc Media Centre) during an online Webinar, with time allocated for Q+A at the end.

A description of the event can be found below:

Join Paul Reilly (University of Sheffield) and host, John Coster (Doc Media Centre), to celebrate the launch of Paul’s new book, Digital contention in a divided society: Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland. ‘Much that is written about the politics of Northern Ireland is based on highly selective accounts of the available evidence. Reilly eschews this approach, subjecting the political use of social media to sustained critique in this empirically rich study. In so doing, he makes a very valuable contribution to scholarship.’ Phil Ramsey, Lecturer in the School of Communication and Media, Ulster University About the book: 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? These issues are addressed in what is 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). The book focuses on 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. It also explores whether citizen activity on these online platforms has the potential to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland.

You can register for the event here

Digital Contention can be purchased in hardback and eBook here

Reviews:

‘Much that is written about the politics of Northern Ireland is based on highly selective accounts of the available evidence. Reilly eschews this approach, subjecting the political use of social media to sustained critique in this empirically rich study. In so doing, he makes a very valuable contribution to scholarship.’
Phil Ramsey, Lecturer in the School of Communication and Media, Ulster University

‘A timely historical account cataloguing a rich collection of the author’s empirical research, the book evinces continuity in polarisation among Northern Irish communities online. Showing how the use of social media adds further complexity to community relations, for instance through the pointed concept of ‘silly citizenship’, Reilly meticulously dispels earlier techno-optimism while further contextualising the algorithmic power of social media.’
Dan Mercea, Reader in Media and Communication, City, University of London

‘While the darkest days of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’ are over, the divisions have left lasting scars and in the twenty-first century the competing interpretations of the conflict and the country’s constitutional status remain entrenched. Reilly’s work explores the contribution of digital citizenship to peacebuilding within this complex context. The comprehensive and engaging analysis explores how a society beset with deeply held prejudices form online communities, share content and can be misled by misinformation so contributing to a range of wider debates on the role of digital media. As with many studies Reilly identifies positives, such as Citizen Assemblies and accounts that scrutinize decision making, as well as the acts of ‘silly citizenship’ which satires sectarianism and can exacerbate divide. Reilly’s work is an important contribution to our understanding of digital politics, how platforms can be a force for good or ill depending on the motivations and behaviour of users, and how forms of digital citizenship can support or disrupt societal healing processes. Reilly’s study is a must read for scholars and students seeking to understand the complex roles which digital technologies play in socio-political life as well as for those seeking to understand the dynamics of present day Northern Ireland and how it might face the challenges of a post-Brexit world.’
Darren Lilleker, Professor of Political Communication, Bournemouth University

New Book out today: Digital Contention in a Divided Society

Digital Contention in a Divided Society, published 19 January 2021

My new book Digital Contention in a Divided Society: Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland has been published today by Manchester University Press.

Here is a brief description of the book:

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? 

These issues are addressed in what is 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). The book focuses on 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. It also explores whether citizen activity on these online platforms has the potential to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland.

Reviews of Digital Contention in a Divided Society

‘Much that is written about the politics of Northern Ireland is based on highly selective accounts of the available evidence. Reilly eschews this approach, subjecting the political use of social media to sustained critique in this empirically rich study. In so doing, he makes a very valuable contribution to scholarship.’
Phil Ramsey, Lecturer in the School of Communication and Media, Ulster University

‘A timely historical account cataloguing a rich collection of the author’s empirical research, the book evinces continuity in polarisation among Northern Irish communities online. Showing how the use of social media adds further complexity to community relations, for instance through the pointed concept of ‘silly citizenship’, Reilly meticulously dispels earlier techno-optimism while further contextualising the algorithmic power of social media.’
Dan Mercea, Reader in Media and Communication, City, University of London

‘While the darkest days of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’ are over, the divisions have left lasting scars and in the twenty-first century the competing interpretations of the conflict and the country’s constitutional status remain entrenched. Reilly’s work explores the contribution of digital citizenship to peacebuilding within this complex context. The comprehensive and engaging analysis explores how a society beset with deeply held prejudices form online communities, share content and can be misled by misinformation so contributing to a range of wider debates on the role of digital media. As with many studies Reilly identifies positives, such as Citizen Assemblies and accounts that scrutinize decision making, as well as the acts of ‘silly citizenship’ which satires sectarianism and can exacerbate divide. Reilly’s work is an important contribution to our understanding of digital politics, how platforms can be a force for good or ill depending on the motivations and behaviour of users, and how forms of digital citizenship can support or disrupt societal healing processes. Reilly’s study is a must read for scholars and students seeking to understand the complex roles which digital technologies play in socio-political life as well as for those seeking to understand the dynamics of present day Northern Ireland and how it might face the challenges of a post-Brexit world.’
Darren Lilleker, Professor of Political Communication, Bournemouth University

The book is available in both print and eBook format and can be ordered here.

I will be in conversation with John Coster (Doc Media Centre) at a book launch event organised by Manchester University Press on 29 January (1-2pm). For information on how to register, please see here

Book talk as part of ICTs and Peacebuilding event- 19 January

Hub for Hybrid Communications in Peacebuilding (HCPB)

I will be speaking about my forthcoming book Digital Contention in a Divided Society at an event organised by the Hub for Hybrid Communication in Peacebuilding entitled ‘ICTs, social media and peacebuilding’. Dr. Phil Ramsey (Ulster University) and Dr. Stef Pukallus (Sheffield University) have kindly agreed to act as respondents during the book launch.

A full description of the event (courtesy of the HCPB) can be found below.

Diana Dajer will give a presentation entitled: ‘Cracking the Code of Tech for Peace: International Perspectives of Peacetech’. Diana is Director of Colombian Institute of Studies of the Public Ministry, working at the intersection between public innovation, education and participatory democracy to guarantee human rights, fight corruption and improve public services. Social and political inclusion in post-conflict societies is Diana’s main interest. Her career is rooted in Colombia and Latin America’s state-building efforts, working in projects involving democratic innovation, human rights and conflict transformation. Before her current position as a public servant she founded and directed Policéntrico, a start-up that fosters sustainable development and participatory democracy in Colombia. She has also been a Build Peace Fellow, where she conducted a research for action project to design Our Development, a participatory budgeting game and tech tool for Medellín. Likewise, she has also worked as an advisor for the Colombian Ministry of Interior, as Project Manager of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Rule of Law Programme for Latin America, as a researcher for the Toledo International Centre for Peace, and as a consultant at Purpose. She holds a degree in law, a graduate degree in administrative law, and a master’s degree in public policy. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford, a Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Research for Action Awardee, and a Colciencias Scholar.

Second, we will launch Paul Reilly’s latest book ‘Digital Contention in a Divided Society: Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland’ (just published by MUP).

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?

These issues are addressed in what is 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). The book focuses on 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. It also explores whether citizen activity on these online platforms has the potential to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland.

Article on COVID-19 infodemic in France Forum

I have had an article published in the most recent edition of France Forum. I argue that we all have a responsibility to verify information about COVID-19 before we share it online. I also suggest we should be wary of the misinformation about the pandemic shared by politicians, which has the potential to hamper efforts to flatten the curve.

Many thanks to Marc Foucault and Elisabeth Cazeaux for the invitation to write this piece. An English language version can be read below.

Two new articles in Journal of Social Media for Learning

Journal of Social Media for Learning launched in December 2020

I have two articles in the inaugural volume of the Journal of Social Media for Learning, which has been published this month.

Curation, connections and creativity: reflections on using Twitter to teach digital activism builds on my presentation at last year’s Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference. In this paper I draw on my experience of using Twitter over the past decade, reflecting on the how student watching of hashtags may help support their learning. The paper can be accessed here and the slides from my presentation are below.

Presentation from 2019 Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference

The second article is a collaboration with my fantastic PhD researcher Paul Fenn. Problematising the use of Snapchat in Higher Education Teaching and Learning reviews the literature on how IM apps have been used to support university teaching to date. We reflect on issues relating to privacy, surveillance and the responsibility of educators to make students aware of how platforms monetise user data. This paper can be accessed here

Many thanks to Dawne Irving-Bell and the editorial team for their help in the publication process and for bringing together a fantastic first volume of the journal.

Chapter on sousveillance in Routledge Encyclopedia of citizen media

I have a chapter on sousveillance in the Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media, which was published a few weeks ago. Many thanks to Mona, Bolette, Henry and Luis for all their hard work bringing this together.

The abstract for my chapter is below:

Sousveillance

Paul Reilly, University of Sheffield, UK

The use of social media by citizens to ‘bear witness’ to traumatic events is illustrative of the new forms of digital citizenship that have emerged in the past decade (Allan et al. 2013, Isin and Huppert 2015). This entry will focus specifically on one such digital act, namely how social media platforms can be used to create and share acts of sousveillance, a form of ‘inverse surveillance’ that empowers citizens through their use of technology to ‘access and collect data about their surveillance’ (Mann et al. 2003: 333). The two primary forms of sousveillance, hierarchical and personal, will be critically evaluated with reference to a number of prominent examples. These will include the #BlackLivesMatter campaign to focus attention upon violent police attacks upon African-Americans since 2014 (Freelon et al. 2016), as well as the use of YouTube by eyewitnesses to highlight alleged police brutality during the so-called ‘Battle of Stokes Croft’ that occurred in Bristol, England, in April 2011. In particular, the entry will consider how audience responses to acts of police brutality shared on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are influenced by news media coverage of these incidents. Previous research has indicated that the sharing of sousveillance footage online may raise as many questions about the behaviour of the alleged victims as it does of the police (Reilly 2015). It concludes by considering whether sousveillant practices facilitated via social media constitute a shift in informational power from nation-states to marginalized groups.

References

Allan, S. (2013) Citizen Witnessing: Revisioning Journalism in Times of Crisis. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Freelon, D., C. D. McIlwain. and M. D. Clark (2016) Beyond the Hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter, and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice, Washington D.C.: Center for Media and Social Impact, American University.

Isin, E. and E. Ruppert (2015) Being Digital Citizens, London: Rowman and Littlefield International.

Mann, S., J. Nolan and B. Wellman (2003) ‘Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments’, Surveillance & Society 1(3): 331-355.

Reilly, P. (2015) ‘Every Little helps? YouTube, Sousveillance and the ‘Anti-Tesco’ Riot in Bristol’, New Media and Society 17(5): 755-771.

Book on social media, parades and protest in Northern Ireland update

I have received the proofs for my new book Digital Contention in a Divided Society: Social media, parades and protests in Northern Ireland, due to be published by Manchester University Press on 1 February 2020.

Here is a brief description of the book:

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? 

These issues are addressed in what is 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). The book focuses on 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. It also explores whether citizen activity on these online platforms has the potential to contribute to peacebuilding in Northern Ireland.

The book will be available in both print and eBook format and can be pre-ordered here

Book on Social Media Research Ethics contracted with SAGE

Doing Ethical Social Media Research, contracted with SAGE, due 2022.

Yesterday I received the contract for my next book. ‘Doing Ethical Social Media Research’ will be published by SAGE in 2022. This book will explore the foundations of ethical decision-making, the perspectives of researchers on how to conduct ethical social media research, and how to address these issues when researching high-risk contexts and contentious issues.

The book will be a hybrid research methods text aimed at students, researchers and anybody with an interest in social media research. It will include summaries of key issues and exercises for those wanting to learn more about digital research ethics.

Many thanks to Michael Ainsley at SAGE for all his help in getting this contract over the line, and for the thoughtful and generous feedback of all the reviewers.

I look forward to working on this project with Michael and the team in 2021. I will try to post updates on here throughout the next 18 months.

New article published on social media and sousveillance

I have a new article in the journal First Monday out today. Entitled ‘PSNIRA vs. peaceful protesters? YouTube, ‘sousveillance’ and the policing of the union flag protests,’ it explores how Youtubers responded to footage of alleged police brutality during the union flag protests in Northern Ireland between December 2012 and March 2013. 

Drawing on a qualitative analysis of 1,586 comments posted under 36 ‘sousveillance’ videos, I argue that responses to these videos were shaped by competing narratives on the legitimacy of police actions during the flag protests. This footage focussed attention on the anti-social behaviour of the protesters rather than the alleged police brutality referred to in the video descriptions. The paper concludes by considering the problematic nature of exploring imagined sousveillance, as was the case here, through the collection and analysis of ‘easy data’ scraped from online platforms such as YouTube. The paper can be accessed here

New article published in Journalism

  • Delighted to have an article co-authored with Bournemouth University colleagues Anastasia Veneti and Darren Lilleker published in Journalism yesterday.
  • The article entitled ‘Photographing the Battlefield’: the role of ideology in photojournalist practices during the anti-austerity protests in Greece’ can be accessed here