Inside the 'Reading the Riots' conference
Last Wednesday I took part in the Reading the Riots conference, organised by the Guardian and LSE, to mark the end of phase 1 of a project which sought to better understand the reasons behind the summer riots. I am one of the lead researchers on Analysing Social Media, a JISC-funded project linked to this.
We examined the role social media, Twitter in particular, played during the riots and analysed 2.6 million tweets to better understand the role of rumours, incitement and the way people organised on the platform. Our findings are highlighted on these three pages:
- Riot rumours: how misinformation spread on Twitter during a time of crisis
- Twitter and the riots: how the news spread
- How Twitter was used to spread – and knock down – rumours during the riots
At the conference the lead researcher, Professor Rob Procter and I presented alongside James Ball, from the Guardian, on the social media panel (view conference slides). Beside researchers and journalists, high profile speakers included Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition, Theresa May, home secretary, Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary and Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lynne Owens.
The day was chaired by Justin Webb, presenter of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. There is a live blog of the day on the Guardian site.
During Theresa May’s brief speech, she was heavily heckled (see video on Huffington Post) and she did not stay for questions, which highlighted a disappointing lack of engagement with such important research. This report includes comments from Lynne Owens in line with our recommendations for government agencies to engage via social media more effectively:
As we have worked so closely with the Guardian, most notably with award winning journalist Paul Lewis and the data and interactive team, it was great to see all these people on the day, some for the first time in real life and sit with them as one team. This was really significant for me and underscored that the research has brought us closer together, recognising the huge potential of this type of collaboration, one we are excited about exploring further in the future.