On my way through London to catch a flight, this relatively new criminologist wanted to stay longer and speak to more people.
While I wasn't there for long enough to fully gauge the breadth of the aftermath of violence, the image I had vividly portrayed through friends and colleagues living in the various boroughs of London pictured a scene of decentralised chaos lacking any emotion of hate or frustration -- more so anger. Pure, unadulterated anger.
"Politicians and the public have no idea why this is happening", former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said yesterday. What is clear, however, is that technology has played a crucial part in these riots -- on both polar opposites of the spectrum.
A peaceful protest precipitated the first riot in Tottenham in north London, but it was not to blame. It's not entirely clear what sparked the first riot, but a number of factors caused the riots to spread.
Social media has since been used to some extent, raking in Twitter and Facebook to help law enforcement deal with the ongoing crisis.
Social media has been used as a force for good -- see below -- primarily as a source for news and ongoing information. But as Twitter, as the primary example, is ultimately propagated by ordinary people, rumours begin and unverified information can spread in a viral way. This is one of many reasons why governments want to track social media communications.
Technology was used, particularly BlackBerry Messenger, to perpetuate violence.
It wasn't just Facebook or Twitter or any other social media platform that was being used to perpetuate violence across the United Kingdom. It was BlackBerry Messenger -- widely considered to be secure, encrypted and free to use.
RIM said yesterday that it would help the authorities wherever possible, by helping police by decrypting messages when warrants were served. The BlackBerry blog was hacked shortly afterwards in protest at RIM's call for help.
But could Facebook get involved? Facebook, like RIM and Twitter, has a UK base, meaning that the California-based company must also follow UK law. If law enforcement ask Facebook to hand over data of users -- as they have done before, according to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, then even more technology companies are at the whim of UK law enforcement.
Many are naive to the traceability of communications. Twitter users, along with Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger users, could easily blow the whistle on messages seen and personally received, making the risk that those responsible for violence could be caught.
While social media can be loosely 'blamed' for rioting -- whether or not it did, it can be attributed to the clean-up operation, organised by ordinary citizens with an extraordinary passion for the city they live in.
Twitter will not remove the accounts of rioters: cites 'freedom of speech'.
The microblogging site is not only filled with those condemning the violence and reporting outbreaks of sporadic looting and disorder, but is also being used by those to gloat about their own criminal activity.