One of the most commented upon things during the recent London Riots has been the use of social networks, both in a negative and positive light.

Possibly unfortunately for BlackBerry, their private instant messenger service became the focal point of organisation within the rioters and looters. There are some, apparently, very simple reasons for this:

…the kids love BBM … it’s cheap, quick and confidential.

BlackBerry’s IM is a closed and private service which prevents outsiders from viewing the messages within. The Guardian even set up a BlackBerry IM account to attempt to penetrate it, wanting to talk to some of the people committing the crimes. This community had, evidently, been established through those who knew each other through this IM service.

Twitter and Facebook users are harnessing the power of social networking to co-ordinate operations. (BBC)

On the positive side, however, these has been the force of Twitter (with Facebook lagging slightly behind). In reply to the spreading of the riots, first #LondonRiots was trending, then #UKRiot when the violence spread. While these made for fascinating reading, arguably the most important thing to trend during the last for days (in this context) has been #RiotCleanUp.

Riot CleanUp was a reaction to the destruction, both physical and psychological. A response that asserts a proactive and positive force in a community and society. It was spontaneous, voluntary, and open. And it would seem to have been a success so far. As one Twitterer astutly put: “#londonriots#anarchy, #riotcleanup = #anarchism.”

We are yet to see what long term effects on the communities these riots and subsequent clean ups will have. Obviously, nothing is black and white, so it would be far to say that not only have the events since Saturday 7 Aug 2011  ripped homes apart, they  have also created a new awareness in communities, and possibly bought some closer together, if just for now. Whatever the state reaction to these events, it is the local societies andcommunities which will see change, not central government.

* from Riot by Dead Kennedys

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