I received this article out of the American Journal of Sociology. This particular
issue starts on page 173 of the July issue of the year 2000. This article caught my
attention because violence has seemed to be increasing lately in my view and would like to
read further into the study of how violence is broken down.
People have wondered and have committed a large amount of effort and time to
find the reason why and where collective violence breaks out. Analyst have typically
treated riot events as independent from others, when they are not. People see information
of one act that can have an affect of future acts of the same nature. one must first
understand how influences are transmitted, flows, and is received through communication
process to understand collective violence or riots.
The first question that the author asks about is the contageousness of the events of
a riot. She asks whether extremely big riots were more likely to break out than small civil
disorders where no one was killed or injured, non were arrested, and not a lot of property
damage was done. The result of the study was that the bigger, more severe riots were
more prone to being contagious and influential to others. This affect is short-lived and
usually lasts about a week.
The second question that the author researched is that if collective actors are more
likely than others to imitate. As many have pointed out, connected actors in a social
system do not all have the same influence on each other and are not all influenced in the
same way. The differences may be from a number of reasons including characteristics of
the actor that make them more likely to imitate the action of others. The results of her
study showed that this does come into play in that there are always more riots in big cities
than in small cities, but the difference wanes over time because riots in the big cities are
starting riots in small cities, but the big cities are paying no attention to the riots that are
going on the small cities.
The third question that the author tested is how influence flows through a
communication network that connects cities. They found that network diffusion flows
through the communication web for short amounts of time.
With the results that have found there are two major points about diffusion of
collective violence and the diffusion of social behaviors in general. One of them is that the
influence of diffusion on producing collective behavior is immense. In the past thirty years
people have went on nothing to predict a riot on the amounts of blacks in a population
and whether or not a city was located in the south. But with this study, tries to prove that
diffusion will be found to be an extraordinarily important force in the other waves of
collective violence and other social protests as well.
The second observation is the importance of the mass media in driving waves of
collective behavior. The diffusion of social process relies on communication networks. If
a person is unaware, how can they react? Well, they can’t. Therefore, access to the
communication network is critical to all three of the major findings in this case. All of the
factors are related to mass media.
Differences in susceptibility appear heavily influenced by media. In the present,
this seems to be an indicator of long standing patterns of communication flow, but reflects
the cultural and political importance of larger populations. The neglect of some of the
cities importance to the riot are more influential than that from the neglect of smaller
More evidence for the core-periphery was found. Beyond the results that riots are
more contagious within the area of the broadcast area of the television station, and also
that cities with television stations have more impact on cities without television broadcast
systems. Also, the bigger cities have the equipment and the resources to broadcast these
situations, and the smaller cities do not. Therefore, riots are more likely to spread in
surrounding areas of a big city rather than a small city.
The study also found that lack of support for some hypothesis like that infectious
and network indicators are ineffective in predicting trends in riot rates. This means that
each fusing phenomenon must be examined in much detail to understand how the process
works. Riots start with an immediate spike that is accented by the severity of the riot, and
then quickly declines. In contract, televisions are used by the same actors that can carry
the effect onto others. Also, riots are dependent on the media to carry the contagiousness.
Once a riot has lost media attention, it will likely cease and lose its potential in the
The diffusion of this social phenomenon is derived from several subprocesses.
While event history diffusion has provided new means, this approach is still new and a
great deal of work to do. Therefore, they are far from a comprehensive statement on this.
The operationalization of infectiousness, susceptibility, and media do not exhaust the
possibilities. There are several other indicators might index these such as prestige and
prominence among the set of actors. Also, the end of a riot shows the possibility of
negative diffusion effects. These may be though of as inoculation effects since the last
event on the city. This could provide a permanent resistance to the contagious influence.
Other characteristics of a city may be useful in finding the susceptibility indicators because
the indicate ground for starting a riot for a protest act.
There are many questions that remain about the microprocess that dives the
diffusion of collective violence. And with these results from their study it is hard to deny
that diffusion is operating. These details are still not understood to the fullest. One
example is that it is not clear why the Psychological effects are short lived. Also, once
potential rioters make a decision to support riot behaviorally, they do not always go to the
streets immediately. Instead, there must be a spark to start a full-fledged riot and
increased acceptance of an action plan will increase the probability that the reaction will
turn into a riot. Often this acceptance will not be supported too much and there will be no
riot. They still have questions as to what happens to the convictions of those who made
the decision support rioting while they are waiting and they want to know the
psychological effect of additional riots that happen during the time period.
In the last paragraph of the article, she states that there are still many questions
that remain about as riot and its actors. Also, that there is much more research to do
before they can have any stone written answers to anything.
American journal of sociology june 2000 p 173-179
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