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Living in France, maybe my point of view could help.

It seems to me we have a great example of a mix of social contagion, of the
theory of the "broken windows" as well as the threshold theory.

The police has been unable to restore peace in the first suburb where the
riots started.
During three nights, hardly any other suburbs joined the movement.
Then, on the fourth night. a few more suburbs joined. The day after more
joined and so on and so on...

What role did SMS/email and personal communication tools took part in this
spread ?
I'm not sure it was a major one. Basically, people mainly share
communications with neighbours living in the same geographic area.
So SMS/email and acquaintances networks could have fostered the spread to
close geographic suburbs.

When it comes to the national scale, my opinion is that it's not SMS/email
or people networks that spreaded the riots. It's the media.
Every night on TV it was like a competition. The competition for the area
that burnt the most cars.
With the best score going up every night. How funny and glorious it is to
join the competition!

Would the riots have spreaded if the police had been able to stop the riots
the first nights they happened ? I suspect that not.
Would the riots have spreaded if the media didn't put such a focus on the
event ?
I suspect that not.

At the same time, there is a story about 3 blogers that were arrested
because they published notes encouraging people to join the riots.
http://www.journaldunet.com/actualite/depeche/28/109947/les_blogs_instrument_de_civisme_ou_d_incivisme_des_violence%0D%0A+s_urbaines.shtml
(if you can read french...)

A last thing to consider : in France, the law forbids to put people under 16
in jail.
Thus, rioters are arrested and the next morning they're free, without any
charge.
Ready to start a new riot...
It seems most rioters are between 11 (!!!) and 16 years old.

My 2 cents...

Stephane Allard


On 11/9/05, Maksim Tsvetovat <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> ***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****
>
> Well, there seems to be an actual network in action, more then just
> contagion by proximity.
> The groups are distributed over fairly wide area and are at least
> physically decentralized. They communicate using cell phones, SMS
> messages and the Internet; while this may be simple coordination
> between peers, it is also possible that there is an implicit or
> explicit hierarchy in action.
> Depending on whether the government wiretaps the rioters' phones, or
> otherwise obtains information on the communication patterns, we may
> never know.
>
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