My new article Countering misinformation and disinformation during contentious episodes in a divided society: Tweeting the 2014 and 2015 Ardoyne parade dispute has recently been published in First Monday. Drawing on research that features in my recently published book Digital Contention in a Divided Society, the article presents the results of a qualitative thematic analysis of 7388 tweets containing ‘Ardoyne’. The study found that misinformation and disinformation constituted a very small proportion of the Twitter activity surrounding the 2014 and 2015 parades. Citizens directly challenged those responsible for sharing visual disinformation during this acute event, while journalists fact-checked unsubstantiated claims and refrained from amplifying misinformation in their coverage. However, the potential impact of social media activity upon events on the ground should not be overstated. There were no incidents of sectarian violence in these years directly attributed to false information shared online. Online misinformation and disinformation are likely to remain a feature of these parades for as long as they remain contentious. The Ardoyne impasse was symptomatic of the failure of political elites from the two main sectarian blocs to address issues such as controversial parades and protests. Thanks to Edward J. Valauskas, First Monday and the reviewers for their comments. The article can be read here
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
Dr. Stefania Vicari and I have a new article out in Social Media + Society today. Entitled Organisational hashtags during times of crisis: Analysing the broadcasting and gatekeeping dynamics of #PorteOuverte during the November 2015 Paris Terror Attacks, the paper presents one of the first empirical studies of the ‘open door’ hashtag. Funded as part of the EU Horizon 2020 project IMPROVER, this social network analysis explores how these dynamics evolved as the attacks unfolded on 13 November 2015.
The abstract is below:
Twitter hashtags allow citizens to share vital information and make sense of acute crisis events such as terrorist attacks. They also enable those watching from afar to express their sympathy and solidarity with the victims. Perhaps the most well-known of these has been #PorteOuverte (translated into English as ‘Open Door’), first used during the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris before re-emerging during subsequent atrocities in Brussels (March 2016) and Nice (July 2016). The hashtag was originally created by journalist Sylvain LaPoix in order to connect those in Paris looking for somewhere to stay with those able to offer them refuge, before reaching an international audience courtesy of its amplication by public figures and citizens based overseas. This paper adds to this emergent literature by analysing the networked gatekeeping dynamics of #PorteOuverte during the Paris terror attacks. It does so by reviewing the literature on Twitter hashtags and acute crisis events, exploring how Twitter was used during the Paris terror attacks, and presenting the results of a Social Network Analysis (SNA) of 399,256 #PorteOuverte tweets posted as the attacks unfolded on 13 November 2015. Results indicate that professional journalists were key broadcasters during four identified peaks within #PorteOuverte, helping to promote the informational hashtag and connect those directly affected. However, citizens and bloggers played an increasingly important gatekeeping function in the aftermath of events such as the Bataclan siege in Paris.
Thanks to the two reviewers for their thoughtful feedback, as well as Prof. Zizi Papacharissi and the SM+ S team for helping with the publication. The paper is available to read open access here
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.
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.
Yesterday I made two appearances on the BBC talking about Twitter’s decision to classify two tweets by Donald Trump as unsubstantiated. First, I spoke to Joanna Gosling on the BBC News Channel about the implications of this action for the forthcoming US Presidential Election. The interview can be watched below.
I then spoke to Dean McLaughlin on BBC Radio Foyle‘s News at One show about whether this would this would lead to politicians being more careful about what they posted online. This interview can be found here
Thanks to Dean, Joanna and their respective teams for the opportunity.
I have an article, ‘Remain Alliance’ win BBC Northern Ireland Leaders’ Debate (online at least), in UK Election Analysis 2019: Media, Voters and the Campaign, out today. In the piece, I discuss some preliminary findings from a Twitter study of reactions to the BBC NI Leaders’ debate on 10 December 2019.
Many congratulations (and thanks) to the fantastic Bournemouth University editorial team of Dan Jackson, Einar Thorne, Darren Lilleker and Nathalie Weidhase. Looks like an excellent read!
Unfortunately I am unable to attend today’s Social Media for Learning in Higher Education conference at Edge Hill University. Thanks to the conference organisers for allowing me to submit a virtual presentation. The screencast can be found here and the abstract and slides for my talk are below:
‘Curation, Connectivity and Creativity: Reflections on using Twitter to teach Digital Activism
Dr. Paul Reilly, University of Sheffield
How can teachers leverage the connective affordances of Twitter to enhance student learning within Higher Education? How do students respond to content shared on module hashtags? In this virtual presentation, I will consider these questions by discussing my own experience of using Twitter in my Digital Activism modules over the past five years. During this period, I created hashtags such as #actandprotest and #digiadvocates in order to curate digital resources for my students at Leicester and Sheffield, as well as to encourage them to share relevant news items, blogs, and research papers at appropriate points during the course. I will reflect on what I refer to as the three ‘C’s of using Twitter in the context of Higher Education. First, the microblogging site provides unprecedented opportunities for the curation of resources. In the case of my Digital Activism teaching, real-time case studies such as Occupy Wall Street and the ‘Arab Spring’ were integrated into sessions through the use of Twitter to share links to blogs and news media coverage. Second, there is the connection with students who were using links shared on these hashtags to deepen their knowledge about theories such as connective action. Some even went as far as to use #actandprotest and #digiadvocates to share resources they had found with their classmates (and me). Finally, there is the ability to showcase the creativity of the students studying Digital Activism. For example, subvertisements (remixed logos of corporations that critique consumerism) were shared under #digiadvocates with the consent of the students who created them. This received very positive feedback from the class, as well as academics and students who were not enrolled in the module but were following the hashtag. The presentation concludes by considering how Twitter may be used to support student learning in the future.
I have published an essay on the New Social Science, New Social Science? blog, which focuses on my work on how Twitter was used during the 2014 and 2015 Ardoyne parade disputes. Thanks to Franziska Marcheselli and the NSMNSS team for all their help with this. The post can be accessed here
I have published a piece for Democratic Audit UK on the role of social media in the Kingsmill bread video row, which culminated in the resignation of Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff last week. I argue that this incident illustrates how hybrid media logics operate in Northern Ireland, with professional journalists increasingly using social media such as Twitter not only to source stories, but also to hold politicians to account for what they post online. The post can be found here
This morning my Research Associate Giuliana Tiripelli will present our paper “Challenges and opportunities of dialogic communication in crisis situations: Twitter, affective publics and the 2015 Channel Tunnel fire” at the Understanding Transition V: Developing Dialogic Communication conference at the University of Bucharest. The abstract for the paper can be found below:
Challenges and opportunities of dialogic communication in crisis situations: Twitter, affective publics, and the 2015 Channel Tunnel Fire.
Giuliana Tiripelli & Paul Reilly
The ‘ambient storytelling infrastructure’ of Twitter today enables ‘affective publics’ to present their own perspectives on events and issues (Papacharissi, 2015). This phenomenon challenges established top-down communicative dynamics, in which definitional power appeared to lie with institutions, organisations, and journalists rather than citizens, and seemingly presents new opportunities for dialogic communication between these actors in the digital age. At the same time, ‘affective publics’ “are mobilized … through expressions of sentiment” (Papacharissi, 2016: 311), creating new information flows that challenge the ability of organisations and journalists to channel communicative resources that manage public responses to crises. This paper explores this binary role of ‘affective publics’ in contemporary media ecologies through the study of the Twitter debate that emerged during the Channel Tunnel Fire. The incident on 17th January 2015, during which a lorry was set alight by an electricity bolt from overhead power lines, led to the evacuation of the passengers and significant disruption to Eurostar services for the next few days. Specifically, the study analyses the role played by journalists and Eurostar staff in the co-construction of meaning of the incident. A critical thematic analysis was conducted (Braun and Clarke 2006) to explore key themes of the 12,652 English-language tweets posted between the 17th and 19th January 2015. URL links shared in tweets were also classified using an inductively-developed content analysis codebook. Results indicate that Twitter accounts belonging to members of the public, rather than the affected organisation (Eurostar) or emergency institutions, were primarily responsible for starting information flows about the Channel Tunnel fire and subsequent disruptions. Although many tweets expressed gratitude for the professionalism of the company and their prompt reply to customer queries, the study suggested an ‘imbalance’ between organisations and private citizens in the co-creation of meaning of the incident in favour of the latter. One interpretation of this finding was that it was a manifestation of the increasingly important role played by flexible and mobile affective publics in defining news events within the contemporary ecology, often at the expense of less flexible news organisations and political institutions that operate in these online spaces. This may present practical problems for emergency managers during incidents such as the Channel Tunnel fire, especially when the cacophony of views on Twitter make it difficult to both filter and share real-time crisis information on the microblogging site. In this way, the paper adds to the emergent literature on dialogic communication and disasters by considering the extent to which the mobilisation of affective publics online challenges the ability of emergency managers to share accurate real-time information with members of the public during such incidents.
Braun V and Clarke V (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology 3(2):77-101.
Papacharissi Z (2015) Affective publics: Sentiment, technology and politics. Oxford University Press.
Papacharissi Z (2016) Affective publics and structures of storytelling: sentiment, events and mediality. Information, Communication & Society 19(3):307-324.