Recent efforts to add a geo-spatial dimension to studies of protest have given social movement scholars the chance to draw some really interesting conclusions. Dan Myers and Beth Caniglia found how close your protest needed to be to New York City to have a hope of appearing in the New York Times. Kenneth Andrews and Michael Biggs determined how sit-ins rapidly diffused from city to city in the south in 1960. And Robert Sampson, Doug McAdam, Heather MacIndoe, and Simon Weffer-Elizondo established what neighborhood characteristics really mattered in where collective action occurred over 30 years in Chicago. While these studies asked different questions and focused on different places, they had one major component in common: they hinged on the painstaking collection of data from a variety of sources to identify the location and characteristics of large numbers of protest events.
What if you want to study a contemporary movement? Good news–you may be able to crowdsource (some of) the painful part! The Guardian has posted the beginnings of a geographic array of Occupy Wall Street protest sites worldwide, including estimates of the number of protesters, indications of the duration of the protest, and (if available) photos and images related to the events. It seems they did some of the initial locating and coding the old-fashioned way; they dug through media accounts. But now they’ve opened it up to “the crowd.” People who know of OWS sites and events can enter that information directly into the database. As word spreads and more people upload information, the data coverage for this particular protest wave could become quite the analytic treasure trove–and the crowdsourced data collection approach could become a model for other protest data collection in the future.