Cardiff Online Social Media ObServatory (COSMOS)



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Twitter: @cosmos_cardiff

Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities.  Tension indicators have been developed by police services for the purposes of anticipatory governance to provide early warning of civil unrest and its escalation into major instances of collective violence. Hitherto this community monitoring has been terrestrial, premised on qualitative intelligence from front-line police officers and other ‘sentinels’ such as watch committees, residents and tenants associations, local media and criminal justice data, including records of court proceedings. The development of digital social research tools, particularly for mining social media, can make a major contribution to the indication of tensions in anticipation of major civil unrest. Furthermore, existing research has framed the issue of tension indicators and community safety in ‘panoptic’ terms, reflecting the interests of public authorities in enhancing their surveillance powers for monitoring populations of interest. A major implication of the social media explosion facilitated through Web 2.0 technologies and other digital technology (such as mobile telephones), however, is the rise of the ‘synoptic’ power for the many to watch the few, of citizens to better hold public authorities, such as police forces, to account for their actions. This also provides opportunities for investigating rival accounts of civil unrest, in particular through accessing the sentiments expressed by those directly involved. The potential of COSMOS to mine and analyse social media also provides resources for non-governmental organisations and the wider citizenry to draw on digital social research in relation to major social-political problems, such as ‘community cohesion’, thereby supporting deliberative democratic processes that can enhance civil liberties.

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