Dr Paul Reilly

MA (St Andrews), PhD (Glasgow)

Information School

Senior Lecturer in Social Media and Digital Society

Paul Reilly
Paul Reilly

+44 114 222 2647

Full contact details

Dr Paul Reilly
Information School
Regent Court (IS)
211 Portobello
S1 4DP

I was appointed Senior Lecturer in Social Media & Digital Society in the Information School at the University of Sheffield in October 2015. I was previously a lecturer in Media and Communication at the University of Leicester (November 2009- September 2015) and was a Part-Time Lecturer (Teaching only) at the University of Glasgow (2007-2010). My PhD (Glasgow, 2008) focused on the ways in which loyalist and republican groups used their websites to frame the Northern Irish peace process.

My research focuses on the study of online political communication, with a focus on three key areas: (1) the use of social media by citizens to create and share acts of sousveillance (inverse surveillance); (2) the ways in which digital media can be used to crowdsource crisis information; and (3) the use of new media to reduce sectarian tensions and promote better community relations in divided societies such as Northern Ireland.

University Responsibilities

  • Officer for PGR Student Affairs, Faculty of Social Sciences (October 2016-October 2018).
  • Deputy Director of Research, Information School (March 2016-September 2018)
  • Member of Digital Societies Research Group
Research interests
I have written two books on the role of the internet in conflict transformation in Northern Ireland (Framing the Troubles Online: Northern Irish Groups and Website Strategy and Digital Contention in a divided society: social media, parades and protest in Northern Ireland). My work has been published in a number of journals including First MondayInformation, Communication & SocietyJournalismNew Media & Society, and Policy & Internet. Recently completed research projects include a British Academy funded study of YouTube footage of the union flag protests in Northern Ireland, a study of how social media is used by first responders during crisis situations funded by the EU 7th Framework Programme for Research (FP7) and a Horizon 2020 funded study of how social media can be used to build community resilience against disasters. I was appointed External Examiner for BA (Hons) Communication & Society and Media at Nottingham Trent University and Researcher-in-Residence at the Doc Media Centre in September 2020. I am a regular contributor to the LSE Democratic Audit blog and have appeared on media outlets including BBC News Channel, BBC News Arabic, BBC Radio Leicester, BBC Radio Sheffield and BBC Radio Ulster. I have been an invited speaker at events organised by the Arts Marketing Association (East Midlands), Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE),  the European Police College (CEPOL) and the Royal United Services Institute.

I am interested in supervising PhD research projects in the following areas:

  • Crisis communication
  • Digital media and peacebuilding
  • Online research ethics
  • Social media activism
  • Social media and sousveillance


  • Reilly P (2021) Digital Contention in a Divided Society Social Media, Parades and Protests in Northern Ireland. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly P (2011) Framing the Troubles Online Northen Irish Groups and Website Strategy. Manchester: Manchester University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Edited books

  • Reilly PJ, Veneti A & Atanasova D (Eds.) (2017) Politics, Protest, Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives: A Book of Blogs. Sheffield: Information School, University of Sheffield.. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download

Journal articles


  • Petersen L, Fallou L, Reilly P & Serafinelli E (2021) Expectations vs. Practice in Critical Infrastructure Operator Crisis Communication: Lessons Learnt from Portugal, France, Norway and Sweden In Beard JW (Ed.), Information Technology Applications for Crisis Response and Management (pp. 24-50). Hershey, Pennsylvania, US: IGI Global. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly P (2020) Social media and sousveillance. In Pérez-González L, Blaagard B & Baker M (Ed.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media, London: Routledge (pp. 390-395). London: Routledge. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly P (2020) Digital media and disinformation in a deeply divided society: Reflections from ‘post-conflict’ Northern Ireland. In Kużelewska E, Trottier D, Terzis G & Kloza D (Ed.), Disinformation and Digital Media as a Challenge for Democracy (pp. 179-200). Intersentia View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Petersen L, Fallou L, Reilly P & Serafinelli E (2019) Public Expectations of Social Media Use by Critical Infrastructure Operators During Crises: Lessons Learned from France, IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology (pp. 177-189). Springer International Publishing RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly PJ & Gordon F (2018) Digital weapons in a post-conflict society In Mair J, Tait R, Clark R, Snoddy R & Fowler N (Ed.), Anti-Social Media (pp. 29-34). London: Abramis. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly P (2017) Twitter, dual screening and the BBC Northern Ireland Leaders’ Debate In Thorsen E, Jackson D & Lilleker D (Ed.), UK Election Analysis 2017: Media, Voters and the Campaign Poole, England: The Centre for the Study of Journalism, Culture and Community, Bournemouth University. View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Gibson RK & McAllister I (2015) Normalising or Equalising Party Competition? Assessing the Impact of the Web on Election Campaigning (pp. 529-547). SAGE Publications View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • (2008) Web Search Springer Berlin Heidelberg RIS download Bibtex download
  • Jackson D () Reframing Disability? Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Nixon P () Politics and the Internet in Comparative Context Routledge View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Oates S () The Internet and Politics Routledge RIS download Bibtex download
  • Zhao X & Reilly P () Breaking down barriers? International student perspectives on ICTs as a tool for Intercultural communication within UK Higher Education institutions. In Brassier-Rodrigues C & Brassier P (Ed.), Collection of pedagogical approaches for developing students' intercultural sensitivity at home. Paris: Peter Lang. RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

Conference proceedings papers


  • Reilly P, Serafinelli E, Tantanasi I, Stevenson R, Petersen L, Fallou L, Rosenqqvist H & Carreira E (2018) Report of organizational and societal resilience concepts applied to living labs RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly P, Serafinelli E, Stevenson R, Petersen L, Fallou L & Carreira E (2018) A communication strategy to build critical infrastructure resilience RIS download Bibtex download
  • Lonnermark A, Criel X, Johansson J, Cedergren A, van Heuverswyn K, Judek C, Lange D, Arnell K & Reilly P (2016) CascEff Glossary and Definitions View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Melkunaite L, Alheib M, Baker G, Cadete G, Carreira E, Eriksson K, Gaspar C, Gattinesi P, Guay F, Honfi D , Ioannou I et al (2016) International Survey View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly P & Atanasova D (2016) A report on the media and information flows during crisis situation View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
  • Reilly PJ & Atanasova D (2016) A strategy for communication between key agencies and members of the public during crisis situations, EC FP7 CascEff Project Deliverable 3.3, European Commission FP7. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Amon F, Lindstrom J, Lindstrom P, Lange D, Lonnermark A, Svensson S, Ronchi E, Nieto Uriz F, Criel X & Reilly PJ (2015) Effects of human activities on the progression and development of large scale crises, Effects of human activities on the progression and development of large scale crises, EC FP7 CascEff Project Deliverable 3.2, European Commission FP7 RIS download Bibtex download
  • Young O & Reilly PJ (2015) Social Media, Parades and Protest View this article in WRRO RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Current PhD students

  • Paul Fenn: Social Media as a tool to enhance Higher Education learning and teaching experiences
  • Jenny Hayes

Research Projects

Social media and adolescent mental health: A preliminary qualitative exploration of the potential use of social media for promoting mental health and wellbeing among 12-18 year olds, Wellcome Trust, Society and Ethics Scheme, £4,160 (Co-Investigator, PI: Michelle O’Reilly), January 2016 - January 2017.

This project will examine how 12-18 year olds in the East Midlands use social media to locate information on mental health and wellbeing.

IMPROVER: Improving Resilience to Crises and Disasters through Preparedness and Experiential Feedback” written in response to the EU Secure Societies call topic DRS-7-2014: Crisis management topic 7: “Crises and disaster resilience – operationalizing resilience concepts (£213,835 out of total project valued at 4.3 million euros, (WP leader and Primary Investigator), May 2015 - May 2018.

This project sets out to explore how social media can help response and recovery times during natural and human-made disasters. The Sheffield team specifically examines how community representatives and those involved in emergency management use social media to create early-warning systems that can be activated during such events. They will identify examples of good practice for information dissemination to the public during crises. These will be used to develop a communication strategy for emergency services and incident managers that will raise public awareness about the risks associated with these events.

CascEff: Modelling of dependencies and cascading effects for emergency management in crisis situations’, Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for Research Technological Development and Demonstration Activities, European Commission, €150 807 (£115, 286.38) out of total project valued at 3, 594, 937.80 euros, (UK Work Package leader and Primary Investigator), April 2014 - April 2017. (Grant reference: FP7-SEC-2013-1).

This project sets out to identify examples of good practice for public communication during both natural and human-made crises. It focuses on how citizen and professional journalists have contributed to the information flows that emerge during such incidents. A series of European case studies such as the Floods in South-West England (UK), the Project X Haren riot (The Netherlands), and the Pukkelpop Festival disaster (Belgium) will be examined as part of this study. The Sheffield team will draw on this research to develop a series of bespoke communication strategies for all relevant agencies (including police and fire and rescue services) involved in the management of these incidents.

YouTube, sousveillance and the policing of union flag protests in Northern Ireland, British Academy, £7,300 (PI), June 2014 - June 2015.

This project explored whether the use of social media for sousveillance (inverse surveillance) had the potential to elicit support for these groups, whose narratives do not always feature in mainstream media coverage of civil disturbances. This was achieved through an in-depth thematic analysis of the comments posted under videos which were presumably shared on YouTube in order to hold the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to account for their ‘heavy-handed’ policing of the protests.

Transformative Networks: Social media, Parades and Protests, Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, £12000 (PI with Orna Young), March – December 2014.

This project explored the role of social media in providing accurate, real-time information to residents affected by controversial parades and protests in Northern Ireland. It also identified ways in which stakeholders such as local residents’ groups can use these sites to reduce intercommunal tensions and improve community relations in contested areas such as North Belfast. I was responsible for the collection and analysis of Twitter data during the 12th July Orange Order parades in Northern Ireland in 2014.

Mediating Disability in Broken Britain: The Role the Media Plays, (2012) Economic Social and Research Council Festival of Social Science (RES-622-26-532), £1680 (PI)

This event brought together academics, activists and policymakers to explore the UK media portrayals of disability issues.

Teaching interests

I am module coordinator for two modules: INF6034 Digital Advocacy and INF6545 Research Methods and Dissertation Preparation (Distance Learning). I have also contributed lectures to several modules including SCS6078 Researching Digital Society, INF6400 Information Systems and the Information Society, and INF6025 Information Governance. I am jointly coordinate the School’s Learning and Teaching Coach scheme with Dr. Peter Stordy.

My teaching focuses upon the role of social media in contemporary activist and protest campaigns, the role of ICTs in peacebuilding initiatives, and the communication strategies deployed by key stakeholders (e.g. police, fire and rescue services) during human-made and natural disasters. I have achieved a number of teaching awards and qualifications over the past five years.


  • JISC 50 most influential UK Higher Education professionals using social media (awarded October 2015)
  • Leicester Students’ Union Superstar Award (awarded May 2015)
  • University of Leicester Teaching Fellowship (awarded January 2014)

Qualifications & Accreditations

  • Senior Fellow, Higher Education Academy (July 2015)
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education (Distinction, awarded March 2013)
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy (November 2012)

Teaching Projects

  • Screencasts in Engineering, University of Leicester Teaching Enhancement Fund, £2002.00 (Co-Investigator, Primary Investigator, Hugo Williams).
  • The right blend? The use of Blackboard to support postgraduate dissertation students University of Leicester Teaching Enhancement Fund, £760 (PI)
  • Assessing the use of Screencasts in the teaching and learning of media and communication studies (2012), University of Leicester Teaching Enhancement Fund, £1336.40 (PI)

For more information on these projects, see www.screencastsinmediastudies.wordpress.com

Professional activities

Membership of professional bodies

  • Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)
  • Member, Working Group on Crisis, Security and Conflict Communication, International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) May 2016 -present)
  • Member, Participatory Communication Research Section, International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) May 2016 -present)
  • Member, Political Communication Research Section, International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) May 2016 -present)
  • Member, Accelerating Change in Global Governance, International Studies Association Working Group (February 2017- February 2018)

Editorial board membership

  • Associate Editor, Political Communication Section, Frontiers in Communication (July 2019-present)
  • Associate Editor, Palgrave Communications (October 2017-present)
  • Member, Editorial Board, For(e)dialogue, University of Leicester (April 2016 – present)
  • Co-Editor, Online Information Review (July - November 2016)

Committee and advisory group membership

  • Member, Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) Ethics Working Group (March 2017 -present)
  • Member, AHRC Peer Review College (January 2017 - present)
  • Member, Advisory Board, LEGaSi, Cooperation Ireland (December 2014 - December 2015)
  • Member, Scientific Board, Communication and Media Research Center (2014 - 2017)

Journal and conference reviewing

Invited reviewer for submissions to journals including Children’s Geographies, Information, Communication & Society, Media, War & Conflict, Journal of Information Technology and Politics, New Media & Society, Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research, Policy and Internet, Surveillance and Society, and Visual Communication.

I have also reviewed research grant proposals for the Estonian Research Council, European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) and ESRC, as well as monograph submissions for Chandos Publishing, the Media and Communication series at Polity Press, and SAGE. I am also a reviewer for the Higher Education Academy.

Invited presentations

  • Reilly, P. (2019) You can’t eat a flag! Social media and political polarisation in contemporary Northern Ireland, Invited talk at Reportage Club, Documentary Media Month, Leicester, 8 March.
  • Reilly, P. (2017) Social media, citizen empowerment and crisis communication during the 2014 UK Floods, invited presentation at ESRC CASCADE-NET Seminar, The role of civil society’s agency in governance and contingency planning: citizenship, participation and social learning, University of Sheffield, 1 December.
  • Reilly, P., Serafinelli, E., Petersen, L., and Fallou, L. (2017) Enhancing critical infrastructure resilience through effective crisis communication: identifying best practices for European CI Operators, invited presentation to Information School, University of Sheffield, 15 November.
  • Reilly, P. (2017) Twitter, affective publics and contentious parades in divided societies: The 2014 and 2015 Ardoyne parade disputes, Invited presentation to Faculty of Media and Communication, Bournemouth University, 24 May.
  • Reilly, P. (2016) Summary of research interests, Invited presentation to Library and Information Societies research group, Information School, University of Sheffield, 9 June.
  • Reilly, P. (2016) YouTube, sousveillance and the policing of the 2013 flag protests in Northern Ireland, invited presentation to Social Media and Politics symposium, Ulster University, Belfast, 3 June.
  • Reilly, P. (2015) Screencasts in Media Studies, invited presentation as part of symposium ‘EAP Lecturers and subject specific lecturers at University of Leicester, British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes Annual Conference, University of Leicester, 18 April.
  • Reilly, P. (2015) Tweeting the Twelfth: How citizens used Twitter during the Orange Order parades in July 2014, Media and Democracy Group, University of Leicester, 25th March.
  • Reilly, P. (2015) Social media, citizen empowerment and crisis communication during the 2014 UK Floods, Risk and Social Media, Association française pour la prévention des catastrophes naturals (AFPN), Bâtiment Bienvenue, Cité Descartes, Marne-la-Vallée, 24 January.
  • Reilly, P. (2014) Invited interview at Reportage Club, Documentary Media Month, Leicester, 26 November. Reilly, P. (2014) The mobile phone: a tool for sousveillance? The Social World in 100 Objects, ESRC Festival of Social Science, New Walk Museum, 7 November.
  • Reilly, P (2014) Invited presentation at Holistic Approaches to Reducing Marginalisation: An Irish Perspective, RCUK Partnership for Conflict, Crime & Security Research, Durham University, 26 September.
  • Reilly, P (2014) Summary of research interests, Invited presentation to Scoping Questions of Privacy, Surveillance and Governance, Digital Society Network, University of Sheffield, 16 July.
  • Reilly, P (2013) Social media and Northern Irish politics: an overview, Invited presentation at Transformative Networks? Social media, politics and protests, University of Ulster, Belfast Campus, 10 December.
  • Reilly, P (2013) Invited Participant in New Media, New Politics: Social media and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland, Roundtable, Political Studies Association of Ireland Annual Conference, Trinity College Dublin, 18-19 October.
  • Reilly, P (2013) Social media, sousveillance and riots: Challenges for UK Police Forces, invited presentation to Social Media and Crowds, European Police College Webinar, 3 July.
  • Reilly, P (2013) Social media, sousveillance and civil unrest in the UK, invited presentation to Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Birmingham City University, 5 June.
  • Reilly, P (2012) Social media and Social unrest: Challenges and Opportunities for UK Police, Invited presentation to Global MSC Security Seminar CCTV Budget Cuts & the Riots – How Did We Adapt? Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol, 6 March.
  • Reilly, P (2012) invited Participant in Urban Operations - How the military can contribute to achieving effect in the urban environment, Exercise AGILE WARRIOR, Royal United Services Institute, London, 12 February.
  • Reilly, P (2011) Policing and Social Media, Invited presentation to Westminster eForum Keynote Seminar eCrime, cyber-threats and protecting critical infrastructure, Princess Alexandra Hall, Royal Over-Seas League, Over-Seas House, Park Place, St James's Street, London, 24 November.
  • Reilly, P (2011) Making Northern Ireland safer? Policy responses to young people’s use of social media for organising street riots in Belfast, ESRC Seminar entitled ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’, University of Leicester, Leicester, 18 November.
  • Reilly, P. (2010) Facebook for Peace? An exploration of the dialogic potential of Web 2.0 in Northern Irish interface areas, Invited seminar presentation to Geography Department, University of Leicester, Leicester, 27 May.
  • Reilly, P. (2010) Invited Poster Presentation and Participation in, Mapping the Impact of Online Information on the Political, Economic and Social Sphere, Google HQ, London, 1 March

Selected Media Appearances: