Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The UK riots, mobile technology and social media: some thoughts

As I write this post, I still have fresh memories of the movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" in my mind which I saw with the kids on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. One quick comment is that the rampaging morons in London, Birmingham and other English cities look a lot like the simian hordes in the movie.

A few observations come to mind in wake of the #londonriots (see that hashtag on Twitter):

  1. the best coverage on such widespread events has shifted from legacy media to social media. There was a literal flood of tweets, facebook posts, flickr pix and YouTube videos in the last few days. With crisis mapping in particular, social media and mobile tech combined to give a pretty broad overview of all the "hot spots" ...something TV had a hard time to do .... In fact, legacy media has no choice but to climb on the SM bandwagon to stay relevant ...
  2. The use of social media and mobile technology in such events (or large-scale disasters) is now prevalent and a growing consideration for EM practitioners and law enforcement. Twitter traffic exploded in the last few days in the UK. People now have a multitude of channels to turn to to share what they're experiencing (and yes, in many cases, to plan mayhem ....)... this presents both challenges and opportunities for police.
  3. Social media and mobile tech play a big role in the aftermath (recovery and investigations) ... people turn to SM to mobilize communities (either to clean up ... to defend neighbourhoods (see above picture)  ... or trash them ...) since many of the idiots rioting are not camera-shy ... identifying them proves relatively easy and again, the web helps ....
  4. These factors put additional and new pressure on legacy media (some who have chosen to actively help the police) and mobile technology providers (RIM is in a pickle over this ...) 
  5. A distinction seems to be appearing between SMS and social media ... where BlackBerry Messenger was extensively (allegedly) used to mobilize mobs of rioters ... in a direct and targeted fashion ... whereas social networks were more widespread in reporting events (by witnesses) and mobilizing community response (cleanup or protection ...) Tactical vs Strategic ... is this a trend?
  6. finally, social networks and mobile tech transcend communities and/or age groups. Their use is widespread and must be a key planning consideration for emergency managers and law enforcement officials. To simply blame the technology for helping spread discontent and turmoil is beside the point. SM and mobile tech now enjoy universal appeal and are here to stay ... for good ... or for bad ...
I'm sure the next few days will bring even more keen observations from all around ... What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment