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

Stephanie Alice Baker (Stephanie Alice Baker is a Lecturer at the University of Greenwich, London, UK.)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Publication date: 13 January 2012

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Citation

Baker, S. (2012), "From the criminal crowd to the “mediated crowd”: the impact of social media on the 2011 English riots", Safer Communities, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 40-49. https://doi.org/10.1108/17578041211200100

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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