Tag Archives: Facebook

It’s All in How You Use It

By Jennifer Earl

When Internet use was beginning to grow in the 1990s, a now decades-old debate started over whether the Internet would bring vast improvements to society, social relations, and individuals or lead to greater inequality, more anomie, and a much thinner civic core. As time wore on, many scholars studying information communication technologies (ICTs) and society were influenced by earlier work in science and technology studies (STS), which suggested that technologies themselves had no direct impact on society, but rather that their impact depended on how the technologies were used (and misused). And, after watching conflicting findings on the impacts of Internet usage roll in for about a decade, the majority of researchers in this area began to support a much milder conclusion: Internet usage would produce some social benefits and likely some social difficulties and the mix and appearance of those would depend on its usage. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

The Path to Big Data Sociology Isn’t Obvious

By Neal Caren

Hand in hand with the rise of the “big data” in the social sciences is an enthusiasm for incorporating new methods to analyze these data. Most prominent among these are topic models for analyzing text data and random forests for modeling categorical outcomes. Just as the rise of new, large-scale, real-time data sets presents challenges and opportunities to social movement researchers, many of the standard methods used to analyze this new data presents promise for scholars, but it won’t be necessarily be easy. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

5 reasons why online Big Data is Bad Data for researching social movements

By Jen Schradie

bigbaddata

I know, I know, it’s digital blasphemy to say that using Internet data is a terrible way to study social movements. What about all of those Twitter and Facebook revolutions of the Arab Spring? And Occupy Wall Street? #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter spread like wildfire, for God’s sake.

You may think that I’m a luddite who doesn’t see the sheer statistical splendor and speed of social network diagrams or automated text analyses made from Tweets.  Or, perhaps you’re thinking that old-school scholars just don’t get it: digital activism is the future, so we need to disrupt, innovate and flatten those hierarchical Marxist social movement sociologists.

But before you reach through your screen and strangle me with your iPhone charger cord, consider these ways in which online data, whether social media or otherwise, might not be as representative or generalizable as they are fast and efficient. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

Pay Facebook to get activists to like you, to really really like you

Why do you click “like” on an organization’s page on Facebook? Possibly to show support for the group. But if you’re like me, I also want to get occasional updates in my newsfeed about current activities and actions of the group or cause. However, to boost the chance that subscribers see more of a group’s posts, Facebook is now charging them money for “promoted posts.” This policy change points to the continuing challenge to the utopic idea that costs have been virtually eliminated for virtual activists.

Digital activism is not “flat,” or without hierarchies, when it is dependent on money and stratification, a fancy sociology word for social class divisions based on power relations. As more social movements and organizations become dependent on these types of social media platforms, they are also more and more tethered to corporations with the end goal being profit. Ultimately, rather than leveling the playing field of activism, people with more money will have an advantage of getting their message out – which crowds out the grassroots viral ideal of digital democracy. It doesn’t make it impossible for un-promoted posts to be seen, but your Facebook feed could be jammed with people paying to be in it. Continue reading

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Filed under Daily Disruption