Fear and loathing in Sheffield

Sheffielders are invited to take part in an innovative photography experiment being carried out by Sheffield University into what makes us fearful of crime.

What contributes to people’s fear of crime in cities? How much do litter, graffiti, broken street lighting and dilapidated buildings play a role? Or do people’s social and cultural knowledge play a stronger role in shaping people’s fears? An innovative experiment in Sheffield, which is organised as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Festival of Social Science (12-21 March), aims to find out.

Members of the public are invited to participate in the experiment called: ‘Fear and loathing in Sheffield: Public fear in an urban landscape.’ The experiment will explore factors that contribute to people’s fear of crime. In Britain, anxiety about crime outweighs the actual risk of it happening. But because even just the fear is damaging to people’s wellbeing, it is often seen as a social problem in its own right.

Under the guidance of Dr Camilla Priede of Sheffield University participants will be provided with disposable cameras to photograph elements in a local neighbourhood that provoke fear or unease. Following this, participants will be asked to share their attitudes and experiences towards the areas that have been photographed.

“Taking photos of areas that people fear will help identify physical factors that may bring about unease,” said Dr Priede of the Centre for Criminological Research at the University of Sheffield. “And by asking participants to share their perceptions and views towards certain landscape we can explore how much people’s knowledge and familiarity of an area shape their fear.”

The information gathered during the experiments will help inform research into people’s fear of crime and how such fear can be reduced. The ESRC Festival of Social Science takes place up and down the county in celebration of some of the country’s leading social science research, showing how the work of social scientists makes a difference to everyone’s lives.

Dr Priede added, “I’m running the same workshop 3 times, on the 13th of March (at 11am-1pm, and 2pm-4pm), and on Wednesday 17th March (2pm). These all start at Bartolome House (the Law department, on Winter Street) and are open to anyone who is interested – but I do ask that people get in touch by contacting me either by email (c.priede@sheffield.ac.uk) or by phoning 0114 222 6825″

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