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



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


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.


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.


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.



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.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.