I have written an article for the LSE British Politics and Policy blog, which examines how social media was used to share footage of alleged Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) brutality against loyalists in Northern Ireland. This post highlights some of the findings from my British Academy funded project ‘YouTube, sousveillance and the policing of union flag protests in Northern Ireland, British Academy’ (Grant reference: SG132416). It can be accessed here
This afternoon (3rd June) I will be an invited participant in a symposium entitled Social Media and Politics, to be held at Ulster University.
My slides can be found here and the abstract for my paper is below:
YouTube, sousveillance and the policing of the 2013 union flag protests in Northern Ireland
On December 3 2012, Belfast City Council voted to fly the union flag above City Hall on a number of designated days each year. In nearby East Belfast, the moderate pro-union Alliance Party was the subject of a controversial leafleting campaign, which suggested that they were responsible for this change to the previous policy of flying the flag 365 days a year and urged Loyalists to protest against the decision. The perception that the Alliance Party had sided with Sinn Fein during the controversial council vote led to Loyalist protests outside the offices of their councilors, and a series of death threats were issued to Alliance representatives such as MP for East Belfast, Naomi Long. The Ulster People’s Forum, led by North Down activist Jamie Bryson and the South Armagh victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer, was linked to a series of flag protests that disrupted rush hour traffic for short periods in towns and cities across Northern Ireland. While the majority of these protests passed off without incident, the first few weeks of 2013 saw the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) come under sustained attack from rioters in the Short Strand/Lower Newtownards Road area of East Belfast on a nightly basis.
Many of these protests were organised on Facebook pages such as Save Our Union Flag, which have functioned as spaces in which members of the Protestant Unionist Loyalist (PUL) tradition not only share information on upcoming demonstrations but also discuss related issues such as effectiveness of the strategy advocated by the Ulster People’s Forum. This paper focuses on audience responses to sousveillance (‘inverse surveillance’) footage shared on YouTube, which focused on incidents in which the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) was alleged to have been heavy-handed in their policing of the protests. It will add to the debate over how social media may be used to transmit citizen perspectives on civil unrest by reviewing the relevant literature on sousveillance and presenting the findings from a thematic analysis of 1146 comments posted in response to the four-most commented upon videos showing alleged PSNI brutality against the flag protesters. Results indicate that there was little rational debate about the events captured on camera or the controversial decision to alter the protocol on the flying of the union flag over Belfast City Council. Very few commentators perceived this footage as a form of sousveillance with many criticizing the behaviour of the protesters rather than the PSNI. In this way, the mainstream media narratives on the flag protests appeared to be reproduced by these commentators.
I have just had an essay entitled “The Battle of Stokes Croft on YouTube: The ethical challenges associated with the study of online comments” published in a ‘Book of Blogs.’
More details on the Book of Blogs (published by NatCen in conjunction with SAGE) can be found below:
An earlier version of this essay can be found here
Yesterday I spoke at an event at the University of Sheffield focussing on questions of privacy, surveillance and governance in the Digital Society My presentation is below:
Other speakers at the event included Professor Clive Norris (Sheffield), Professor Kirstie Ball (Open University), Dr Andrew McStay (Bangor) and Dr Vian Bakir (Bangor). Thanks to John Steele and Jo Bates for the invitation and for organising an extremely interesting day – hopefully more to come!
My article ‘The ‘Battle of Stokes Croft: The Development of an ethical stance towards the study of online comments’ has recently been published in SAGE Research Methods Cases.
The article can be accessed here: http://srmo.sagepub.com/view/methods-case-studies-2013/n89.xml . If you cannot access this content please drop me an email (email@example.com) for a preprint copy.
My British Academy funded project entitled YouTube, sousveillance, and the policing of flag protests in Northern Ireland’ will start early next month. I will be recruiting two research assistants to work on the project over the next few months (I will post details of these posts in July).
The University of Leicester has issued a press release about the project:
If you have any questions about the project please feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I have written a blogpost on the ethical stance I developed for my study of YouTube, sousveillance and the Stokes Croft riot. It can be accessed on the Political Studies Association site here: http://www.psa.ac.uk/insight-plus/blog/battle-stokes-croft-youtube-ethical-challenges-associated-study-online-comments
I have uploaded ‘YouTube, sousveillance and the 2011 ‘anti-tesco’ riot in Bristol’ to my Slideshare account. These slides summarise the key points from my talk at the PSA Media and Politics Conference in Bournemouth on 14 November 2013.