Community Worker Perspectives on the Use of New Media to Reconfigure Socio-spatial Relations in Belfast

2012-09-17T14:46:21Z (GMT) by Paul Reilly
Cyber enthusiasts as far back as Rheingold have suggested that cyberspatial technologies such as the Internet have the potential to transform space–time relations and create new social spaces, thus ameliorating social conflict in contested areas. However, a more sceptical view of cyberspatial communication is provided by Hampton, who argues that on-line interactions cannot be artifically separated from their off-line contexts. This article will analyse whether these technologies are changing the nature of territorial disputes and patterns of social interaction between Protestant and Catholic interface communities in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Interviews were conducted with nine community workers to investigate this issue. Focusing on the possibility of using social media to facilitate intergroup contact, the paper argues that on-line interactions alone do not appear to have the potential to build mutual understanding and trust between rival interface communities. Indeed, community workers fear that many young people use these sites to exacerbate intercommunity tensions.

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