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Framing online communications of civil and uncivil groups in post-conflict Northern Ireland

Reilly, Paul (2008) Framing online communications of civil and uncivil groups in post-conflict Northern Ireland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the ways in which civil and uncivil groups in Northern Ireland use the Internet to generate soft power. This research assesses whether the Internet creates a critical multiplier effect for marginal groups, such as terrorists and interface communities. A coding scheme, adapted from previous studies of political part websites, is used to determine whether these groups have realised the potential of the Internet as a tool for political mobilisation. The dissertation considers whether there are any qualitative differences between the online framing of terrorist-linked parties and the constitutional parties in the region. The phenomenon of amateur terrorism is also analysed through the lens of Loyalist and Republican solidarity actors. The analysis determines whether solidarity actors were more likely to justify political violence on their websites than their respective political fronts. In addition, the websites of rival residents’ groups are examined to determine whether the Internet can help generate social capital across sectarian interfaces. The analysis determines whether residents’ groups use the Web to strengthen in-group identities, or to engage in dialogue with rival interface communities. In doing so, the research tests the cyberoptimist assertion that the Internet will facilitate forms of communication that undermine unequal power relations within nation-states. The online audience for Northern Irish terrorists is modelled using Internet usage patterns and the ranking systems used by Internet search engines. Internet usage patterns are examined to define the potential audience available to Northern Irish terrorists via their websites. The study suggests that there is little to differentiate between the websites of terrorist-linked groups, such as Sinn Fein, and the websites of constitutional parties, such as the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). In contrast, Loyalist and Republican amateurs often use paramilitary insignias on their websites to demonstrate their opposition to the peace process. However, these websites do not constitute a new dimension of terrorist threat to the peace process. Analysis of residents’ group websites suggests that they further the competition of ‘victimhoods’ between Loyalist and Republican interface communities. Both sides use their web presence to claim that they were constantly under threat of attack from the community situated at the other side of the ‘peaceline.’ Moreover, the thesis suggests that there will be a limited online audience for both civil and uncivil actors in Northern Ireland. The online audience for these actors is likely to consist of Internet users who use the Web for political research and Loyalist and Republican supporters in the ‘offline’ world.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Internet, Northern Ireland, terrorism, framing, civil society.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Politics
Supervisor's Name: Oates, Dr Sarah
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: DR PAUL REILLY
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-131
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2008
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:16
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/131

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