The DLR is not being republican (us? never…) when it turns to the subject of last year’s riots on the day of Queenie’s Diamond Jubilee. We like the idea of the Jubilee; we never use that Tube line, exactly, but it’s a word with a nice onomatopoeic oomph to it, and that’s enough for us.
That being said, let’s return to the riots — it’s almost been a year now, and they feel both so long ago (what has changed since?) and so recent (what has changed since?). But The Guardian – congrats to The Guardian here! – has recently won an award for its data reporting following the Summer Riots (see what we did there? We capitalised it. It’s now official, like the Diamond Jubilee), and, having a look through it, we have to say – chapeau bas, Guardian Data Reporting Blog (ok, we’ll stop), chapeau bas indeed.
Do you remember the rumours during the riots that London Fields was too dangerous to cross through? That people had broken into a McDonald’s and were cooking themselves dinner? That they’d burnt the Dolphin? (And then that funny guy got on Twitter and pretended to be the pub? Good times, good times.) That rioters attacked the London Zoo? If you were glued to Twitter, as we have to say we were, these might have cropped up in your Twitter feed — maybe you shouted them out to your housemates or partner and freaked out a bit, and then an hour or so later they were debunked within the same feed.
The Guardian Data Blog took these rumours and counter-rumours and made a movie-of-sorts of them, so that you can see the rumours emerge, and then, as if mapping cells in a Petri dish, the emergence of tweets countering these rumours — and then the whole issue subsides. It’s an amazing example of the spread of crowd-sourced information during the period in a crisis when peer-to-peer information outpaces what news organisations and other authorities are able to report. It’s also a striking reminder of the evanescence of that moment — the information that isn’t recorded about the riots but still happened during that time. The DLR, with its inimitable good timing, was also in New York for September 11th, and remembers a period of about two hours when everyone thought the Towers had fallen because of explosives placed in the buildings’ basements.
The Guardian also requested all the information on everyone who was detained — not just their names but where they came from, and how they were treated during when remanded, so they could determine their socio-economic statuses (newsflash: the riots were linked to poverty), with their level of treatment, reasons for rioting — even how far they travelled to riot. The Guardian has a rep for being liberal, and this is pretty activist reporting — but perhaps because it’s data, with its undeserved reputation for objectiveness, it flies under the radar.
There’s lots under ‘Reading the Riots’ and well worth a look — we found out, sadly, that the Dolphin Twitter man did not make the 200 most influential Twitter users (nor did @DalstonPeople or @DalstonDin, more surprisingly), but that there was a four-day gang truce during and immediately following the riots. Maybe that’s what we need for some, um, stability here! Rain and rioting. Happy Jubilee.