The availability of previously unimaginable volumes of text and network data on new forms of communication (e.g., “big data” from Facebook and Twitter) and other technological advancements that allow researchers to collect new kinds of data on old forms of communication and participation (e.g., using drones to photograph and analyze protests events, or using nationally representative survey data to map protest events), have led some to predict that social movement research is on the cusp of new discoveries concerning social movement processes. Others are less optimistic that more data leads to better theory.
For Mobilizing Ideas’ next essay dialogue, we are inviting contributors to reflect on both the promise and limitations of innovative techniques for collecting data on social movements and protest. In what ways, if any, do new sources or forms of data allow us to test classic theories (of movement emergence, recruitment, diffusion, outcomes, etc.) or to generate new ones? Which methodological problems of “old” collection techniques are solved by new methods, and which persist? What new hurdles are posed by the availability of “big data”? In what ways does our methodology restrict the kinds of questions we ask? What types of questions are new forms of data best suited to address? What impact will all of this have on the long-term future of social movement research?
Adding to last month’s essays, we are posting 4 new insightful contributions. Many thanks to our cast of contributors:
Jen Schradie – University of California, Berkeley (essay)
Fabio Rojas – Indiana University (essay)
Jennifer Earl – University of Arizona (essay)
Neal Caren – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (essay)
As always, we invite you to join the dialogue by posting your reactions to these essays in the comments sections.
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, and Dan Myers