After Woolwich: Social Reactions on Social Media
Funder: European Social Research Council
The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the 22nd May 2013 in Woolwich rapidly acquired the properties of a signal crime (Innes, 2004). The changes to public and institutional perceptions of security were amplified by a series of secondary incidents of violence in the days and weeks following the original crime. The study seeks to develop the Rigby homicide as a case study of social reactions to high profile major crimes to generate new knowledge about how publics interpret and make sense of such events.
The proposed approach blends conceptual and methodological innovation by using social media (SM) data to study collective reaction patterns in ways not previously possible through more orthodox social science. Specifically, this involves examining how publics think, feel, or behave in relation to high profile crimes, and tracking these reactions as they ‘travel’ across public digital social networks. Thus illuminating how perceptions, attitudes and polarised narratives emerge, are communicated, become modified, spread and ultimately decay. This constitutes a very different approach than can be provided by large-scale public opinion surveys, that at best tend to provide retrospective reconstructions of public opinion following major incidents.