Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Riot round-up

The nation's columnists and behavioural experts are attempting to make sense of the recent anarchy in English cities. Here's a handy round-up of some of the best psychological and sociological comment so far (please do use comments to highlight articles you've come across):

Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks blog explains how the social psychology of crowd control, which has informed policing of protests and sports events, struggles to shed much light on the current violence and looting.

Several psychologists and criminologists are quoted in this BBC featurette "What turns people into looters?"

New Scientist describes the recent events as the UK's "first networked riots".

Ian Leslie, author of Born Liars, explains the riots as a combination of social alienation and technology-assisted mimicry.

Social psychologist Clifford Stott criticises the idea that the acts of violence and rioting are meaningless. [Stott is the psychologist who's work was mentioned in Vaughan's Mind Hacks post].

Zoe Williams for the Guardian offers wide-ranging thoughts and commentary on the whys and wherefores of the riots.

Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, says large numbers of youths feel disconnected from their local communities.

Michael McCarthy for the Independent blames the riots and immoral behaviour on a loss of a sense of unwritten cultural norms.

UPDATE (16.50 Aug 10)

Grabbed from comments: "These are not hunger or bread riots. These are riots of defective and disqualified consumers" (Social Europe Journal).

The Week has gathered together 5 theories on what caused the riots.

Jonah Lehrer (author of How We Decide) offers his perspective: "We just don’t know how [mobs] matter, or why a group of hooded young men is capable of such awful deeds"

UPDATE (Aug 18)

"Nobody riots on their own": social psychologists Steve Reicher and Clifford Stott are quoted in Scientific American applying social identity theory to rioting.

Tom Stafford on Mind Hacks discusses some fascinating research in moral psychology as he reflects on the moral outrage shown by some commentators, not just towards the looting, but towards any attempt to explain the looting as anything other than simple criminality.

Clifford Stott (again) and media psychologist Pamela Rutledge talk to the New York Times about England's struggle to understand why the rioting occurred.

This is a special edition of the Digest's new Morsels feature.


sevenism said...

this article is very interesting:

Anonymous said...

Another theory from political scientist Jay Ulfelder:

Eliza said...

Elaborated social identity theory:

@vivyouell said...

Re: "Coverage of the riots leads to anxiety"
Information has been a problem.
As I've struggled now through four nights of constant sirens up and down the Green Lanes 'super highway'. There has, actually, been 'no information' - not locally, not officially. I have felt under siege.
Wood Green was very quiet on Saturday night. The tension was palpable and menacing; the imperative was to get indoors and fast. A friend and I walked the long way home away from short cuts that lead towards Tottenham, a well known trouble spot.It was midnight.
I don't have television; it wasn't necessary that night. The helicopters I could see a mile away and reports on Twitter 'told' me what was going on in Tottenham that night.
I watched the helicopters until they were pulled out along with the media black-out at around 2am. From then on only Twitter and other social networks were the source of any information. The sonic storm of sirens had already started in local streets.
What was not in doubt to me at that stage was that speculated 'spread' would present as opportunistic events that would occur more locally.
Unreported, Wood Green was trashed and looted in the early hours of Sunday, as was a local jeweller as was the local shopping complex, attacked by 100+ people, at least twice the following night.
Later that Sunday,refusing to accept the oppressive sense of an unofficial curfew that hung over the area, I went to see for myself after the second raid on the complex. I saw the 'cycle kids' and I also saw that the local Turkish 24 hour grocery shops had tripled their 'staff' for the night.
Why did I do that? Because these are my streets and I trust my local community. I needed to see for myself, to make my own mind up about the truth of reports on Twitter. They were completely accurate as was my assessment of the safety of the street and vigilance of the small traders. I chatted with local men. We remininsced about the old Haringey Stadium that used to be there.
I went out on Monday , after it had been targeted, to support the local community by being present, involved. People met each other in the eye, cautious, vigilant, reassuringly polite ; actively patient and understanding that Sainsbury's check-outs were slow due to half of them being smashed up for their cash float the night before. In Superdrug I had a distinct sense that jobs were at stake if the place were to be hit.
Personally, I also believe that media information has indeed lead to anxiety and I think that it is in some way appropriate. The discontented came from within all our communities.
Fear comes from within ourselves and has been heightened by a lack of accurate local information combined with clear official guidance rather than politics, opinion and speculation; but mostly because we are disconnected from what happens right outside our front doors. It is also real.
As I read, “@cineworld We regret that our Wood Green Cineworld is to shut for the forseeable future”, I really started to fear ; “What if the local Sainsbury’s closes for any length of time?”, “How will the 24 hour grocery shops manage to feed us all?”; “What if the large companies don’t repair but retreat?” In this economic climate the demolition of large chain store may result in the loss of a whole economy and infrastructure of an area.

There are plenty of things to be concerned about at present.

Ian Patterson said...

Very good, personalised comment from @vivyouell. I liked that. From Ian, Aberdeen

C Blake said...

Routledge have put together a collection of free articles on UK ‘Riot’ Culture: What does the research say?

Click here to go straight through to the article collection

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