I keep bumping into blog posts about the riots that took place in Stokes Croft this past Thursday and the one before that. I don’t have much of an impassioned opinion on the events themselves. I live maybe 15 minutes away by foot and feel it’s local story but I can’t really relate to the events with as much interest as others. See Kerry MP, Don’t Forget The Sun, Nancy Knits, Tigerlilyquinn, Bristol Culture, Eugene Byrne and Something Doing among others.
The thing to which I do relate and enjoy is the way the conversation about Stokes Croft took place. Crises are one of the best ways to get people talking to each other and not only because we all have the same thing to talk about but that helps.
I heard about it on Twitter first where it all became very lively. People were taking pictures and getting involved in a way which, had it taken place on a Northcliffe hyperlocal site, would have counted as a success. Anyone ready for Stokes Croft people yet?
I chatted to the guy in the lift on the way to Swinky’s the next morning. It made for conversation over coffee and cupcakes, then over lunch, then over the next few days.
Twitter kept updates going even when the BBC and the Evening Post failed to report. The UK bombs Iraq and we get instant coverage but at 1.30 in the morning there was apparently no one in the office to cover a riot just down the road (or close enough).
All the talk is a positive sign. I once sat in the central plaza in Amsterdam while the government drove by to resign and no one had any idea what was going on. I found out when I returned to Athens.
At university, during exam time, people were the friendliest and most communicative than at any point in the year. External stresses that bind us together are even better than drugs at making a social atmosphere and there’s no come down.
To tap into rational choice theory again, the ties that bind us together socially are theorized as the concept ‘social capital’. It’s the value we place on our relationships with others. There are weak ties and strong ones and various researchers have defined these in numerous ways but it all comes down to that distinction, pretty much.
Strong ties can be found in close knit communities and can be good and bad. Good because there can be reciprocity and support and bad because it can be hard to break out. For example, the ghetto sections of England where ethnic divisions are reinforced by voluntary segregation, i.e. areas that are predominantly Pakistani or Greek communities whose members interact only with each other. A great example of the latter is My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the difficulty in bringing in a non-Greek to that group. Exaggerated somewhat, obviously, but not by as much as you’d think.
Going back to the topic of Stokes Croft, all the elements were there to bind people into a community. External forces, such as Tesco and the police; lack of media coverage which meant the conversation wasn’t redirected; and the violent attack against protestors and the police.
As I mentioned before, there are hyperlocal sites set up by Northcliffe which are designed to get people talking but they don’t have the same vibe as Twitter did on both those Thursdays. I could take a guess as to why but what do others think? Will it take a riot in Clifton?