A sociology of UK riots is (already) possible


French version here

The riots that shook Britain in the last few days have resulted in a form of “sociologist-hunting”. Following statements by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, confusion has emerged between efforts to understand this outburst and conspiracies to justify it. The open letter of the President of British Sociological Association to The Guardian has not reversed this trend: a climate of moral panic is definitely setting in.

The blog post Is a social media-fuelled uprising the worst case scenario? Elements for a sociology of UK riots, co-authored by Antonio A. Casilli and myself, plays a part in all this. Using social science analytical tools, we make the case that censorship of Facebook, Twitter and BBM – as proposed by the Prime Minister David Cameron – will increase the level of violence.

This is an example of just-in-time sociology to support public decision-making at a historical moment when democratic freedoms are about to be traded for an illusory sense of security. Our work has aroused a great deal of interest and positive feedback in the last few days. Thousands have read, shared online and tweeted it. That is, in our case, a definite success: outside academia, readers have – apparently – little interest in a 15,000 character paper with a pretty heavy set of charts, tables and a complete software code. Our blogs are tools for research that mainly target a specialised audience. Yet this good result confirms that despite efforts of the British establishement to prompt an actual “hatred of sociology,” the public craves to understand the social mechanisms at work in the current situation.

Ps. The excellent feedback received on our post has helped us further refine our analysis and rework the text into a scientific article. Why net censorship in times of political unrest results in more violent uprisings: A social simulation experiment on the UK riots is already available in the online archive SSRN, and it has been promptly submitted to a scientific journal. Knock on wood!

One Response to “A sociology of UK riots is (already) possible”

  1. Riots are like rain. Before they come, the sky get heavy, overcast and cloudy. Although those who have no need to worry about the rain would not be bothered but those of us that have washings on the line outside, surely will see it all coming. From social activists to community charity Organisations on the ground saw it coming and yet our decision makers never had a clue hence they were all on holiday abroad. Incidentally, I have a book written on some of the probable causes of the riot and it is yet to be published.

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