Understanding Youth and Gang Violence on Social Media – Episode # 48 on AC4 Podcast, Conversations from the Leading Edge

In this episode, Peter T. Coleman interviews Dr. Desmond Patton, a social work researcher now at Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Dr. Patton shares about his background and experience researching youth violence. He tells about the multiple perspectives involved in his research that focuses on urban communities of high violence, including the youth themselves, many of whom are low-income youth of color, the outreach workers, staff at the community based organizations, as well as police and public safety.


With humility, Dr. Patton shares stories about his research on Internet Banging, a concept he coined while conducting research in Chicago. His previous research on Internet Banging has been discussed on several media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, NPR, Boston Magazine, ABC News, and was most recently cited in an Amici Curae Brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in the Elonis vs United States case which examined the issues of interpreting threats on social media. Before coming to Columbia in July of 2015, Dr. Patton was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and School of Information. He received a BA in Anthropology and Political Science, with honors, from the University of North Carolina- Greensboro, MSW from the University of Michigan School of Social Work and PhD in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

His talks about the potential utility and challenges of social media to identify certain hot zones or spots of violence and the way he uses qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine how and why youth and gang violence, trauma, grief and identity are expressed on social media and the real world impact they have on well-being for low-income youth of color.

In partnership with the Data Science Institute at Columbia and the Social Intervention Group, Dr. Patton has current research projects that examine how gang involved youth conceptualize threats on social media, the extent to which social media shapes and facilitates youth and gang violence, and how social media can be used to intervene in youth and gang violence. He explains how their data is gathered and interpreted and how he works with people on the ground, including outreach workers, community based organizations and others, to do so. One of the first parts of his research, says Dr. Patton, is to “consider social media as an ecological system that we need to understand and see the implications for in social work practice.”

This Episode was recorded at Columbia University’s Public Radio station, WKCR (89.9FM) on January 17, 2017.

Learn more about the podcast and hear previous episodes: AC4 Conversations from the Leading Edge.

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