BU professor’s new book follows police on social media

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Photo of Christopher J. Schneider
Christopher J. Schneider’s fourth book, Policing and Social Media, will be released on April 16. (Tiffany Green)

BRANDON, Man. – Police have added social media as a friend, and it’s complicated.

Brandon University (BU) professor Christopher J. Schneider, an internationally recognized expert in the area of technology and policing, has followed this relationship closely and shares his findings in his new book, Policing and Social Media. Set to be released on April 16 by Lexington Books, Policing and Social Media breaks new ground in the analysis of how technology is changing the public face of police work.

“As best I can tell, no book of this kind exists, although there are a few topically related books,” says Schneider, a professor in BU’s Department of Sociology. “From the first attempts by police to gather tips through social media, their efforts have grown more sophisticated and ambitious to the point of developing new ways of conditioning the public, cultivating self-promotion, and expanding social control efforts.”

Policing and Social Media begins with an investigation of police awareness of social media platforms and connects this awareness to their early use of these sites primarily for investigative purposes. Much of Schneider’s focus is on three Canadian case studies: the online citizen sleuthing on Facebook to find the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup rioters; the Toronto Police Service’s innovative social media strategy and use of Twitter; and the YouTube video that brought worldwide attention to the fatal shooting of Sammy Yatim by Toronto police officer James Forcillo even before discussions of the video reached the mainstream media.

“This was the first video in Canada of an on-duty shooting that resulted in a citizen death that was put online in advance of statements given by police or journalists,” Schneider says.

“It was a watershed social media moment for police in Canada.”

While the circumstances were vastly different in each situation, Schneider uses the case studies to advance his central argument that the adoption of social media has altered institutional public police practices in a manner that is consistent with the logic of social media platforms.

“We are all becoming increasingly attentive to, and perhaps concerned with, how the 21st-century phenomenon of social media has changed the way people around the world understand and even conduct their daily affairs,” says Demetres Tryphonopoulos, Dean of Arts at BU. “In Policing and Social Media, Dr. Schneider relies on his extensive and sophisticated understanding of the subject in order to explore the potential impact of social media when used by police forces to plan and achieve new forms of social control. This is a fascinating and eye-opening glance into the present and the future of policing in Canada and beyond.”

Policing and Social Media is the fourth book by Schneider, who has also published numerous academic papers. Some of his research is cited in the Council of Canadian Academics report Policing Canada in the 21st Century: The New Policing for New Challenges. Various police agencies have called upon Schneider for his insight, while media outlets such as The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s Magazine and Reader’s Digest, among others, have turned to him for analysis.

Policing and Social Media is available for pre-orders through amazon.ca or rowman.com/LexingtonBooks. This week the book reached No. 1 on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases in Canadian politics.

“Schneider’s Policing and Social Media takes the reader deep inside the interplay of social communication and social control. As he carefully documents, new openings for interactive communication are emerging amid the swirl of today’s social media—but so are new, insidious forms of surveillance and manipulation. An essential work on contemporary policing and contemporary media, Schneider’s book brings critical social analysis to bear on the most immediate of issues.” — Jeff Ferrell, Texas Christian University and University of Kent

“Schneider’s groundbreaking new book studies the complex symbiosis between police and media in the era of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. The multiple perspectives of its three case studies
reveal how the logic of social media is already transforming police practices, not only creating new challenges for police, but also new openings for social control strategies.” — Aaron Doyle, Carleton University

“In this cogent and compact book with its innovative ‘mediated order’ approach to concept and method, Schneider helps us understand the game-changing, barely scratched field of social media and social control. This book is most welcome in helping us understand that the ‘facts’ and their print, visual, and auditory stories are chosen, culled, invented, and spun under the dynamic influences of new information technologies.” — Gary T. Marx, author of Windows into the Soul: Surveillance and Society in an Age of Technology

Policing and Social Media book coverABOUT THE BOOK:
Policing and Social Media investigates various public aspects of the management, use, and control of social media by police agencies in Canada. This book aims to illustrate the process by which new information technology—namely, social media—and related changes in communication formats have affected the public face of policing and police work. Christopher J. Schneider argues that police use of social media has altered institutional public police practices in a manner that is consistent with the logic of social media platforms. Policing is changing to include new ways of conditioning the public, cultivating self-promotion, and expanding social control. While each case study presented here focuses on a different social media platform or format, Schneider’s concern is less with the particular format per se, as these will undoubtedly change, and more with developing suitable analytical and methodological approaches to understanding contemporary policing practices on social media sites.


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