Dr Paul Reilly

Senior Lecturer in Social Media and Digital Society

MA (St Andrews), PhD (Glasgow)


Paul Reilly


+44 (0)114 222 2647

I have written one book on the role of the internet in conflict transformation in Northern Ireland (Framing the Troubles Online: Northern Irish Groups and Website Strategy, Manchester University Press 2011) and am currently writing my second on the role of social media in promoting positive intercommunity relations in the region (due 2016). My work has been published in a number of journals including Information, Communication & Society, New Media & Society, Policy and Internet and Urban Studies. My current research projects include 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. The British Academy and the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council have also funded my work on social media, parades and protest in Northern Ireland. I have also organised a knowledge exchange seminar for the Economic Social Research Council and been an invited speaker at events organised by the Arts Marketing Association (East Midlands), 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

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.