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Journal cover: Safer Communities

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Online from: 2002

Subject Area: Health and Social Care

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From the criminal crowd to the “mediated crowd”: the impact of social media on the 2011 English riots

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Title:From the criminal crowd to the “mediated crowd”: the impact of social media on the 2011 English riots
Author(s):Stephanie Alice Baker, (Stephanie Alice Baker is a Lecturer at the University of Greenwich, London, UK.)
Citation:Stephanie Alice Baker, (2012) "From the criminal crowd to the “mediated crowd”: the impact of social media on the 2011 English riots", Safer Communities, Vol. 11 Iss: 1, pp.40 - 49
Keywords:Collective action, Crowd theory, Emotions, English riots (2011), Group behaviour, Mediated crowd, New media, Occupy Wall Street protests, Social media, Social networks
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/17578041211200100 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – This article aims to explore the impact of new social media on the 2011 English riots.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper suggests that discourse on the riots in the news and popular press is obscured by speculation and political rhetoric about the role of social media in catalysing the unrest that overlooks the role of individual agency and misrepresents the emotional dimensions of such forms of collective action.

Findings – In considering the riots to be symptomatic of criminality and austerity, commentators have tended to revive nineteenth- and twentieth-century crowd theories to make sense of the unrest, which are unable to account for the effect of new social media on this nascent twenty-first century phenomenon.

Research limitations/implications – Here, the notion of the “mediated crowd” is introduced to argue that combining emotions research with empirical analysis can provide an innovative account of the relationship between new social media and the type of collective action that took place during the riots. Such a concept challenges orthodox nineteenth- and twentieth-century crowd theories that consider crowds to be a corollary of “emotive contagion” in spatial proximity, with “the mediated crowd” mobilised in the twenty-first century through social networking in both geographic and virtual arenas.

Originality/value – The paper proposes that this original approach provides insight into the particular conditions in which the 2011 English riots emerged, while advancing crowd theory in general.

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