Tag Archives: Google

Big Data and Social Movement Research

By Fabio Rojas

“Big data” sounds fun and exciting but it has also been heavily criticized. But now, it’s time to step back and treat “big data” as we would treat any other form of data. We should identify its strengths and weaknesses and ask how it can help us with our own specific research goals. So let’s start with an obvious, but under-appreciated, point about empirical research: there is no such thing as perfection in data. Every method for generating and collecting data has strengths and weaknesses. Thus, we should be interested in data collection methods where the positive points outweigh the negative points. For example, experimental data has a great virtue – those who receive the treatment are randomly selected, thus eliminating bias. Experimental data also has a serious drawback. Experimental settings may not reflect “real world” processes and are often not generalizable. This is a serious problem for biomedical research, for example. A drug tested in a highly controlled environment may work differently than in the actual setting of a hospital. Yet, we value experiments because they do one thing exceptionally well – they eliminate selection bias and address the issue of confounding variables. Continue reading


Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Data

Google doodle draws attention to gay rights and the 2014 Olympics

Google doodle highlighting gay rights and the 2014 Olympics

Google doodle highlighting gay rights and the 2014 Olympics

As a follow up to Lisa Leitz’s post about the same sex marriages featured at the 2014 Grammy Awards, I want to draw attention to Google’s homepage “doodle” which “honors” the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The doodle highlights six winter sports and, critically, is set against a rainbow background. Below the search bar is a quote from the Olympic Charter: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

Anyone who has been following politics around this year’s Olympic games will recognize this as a not so subtle dig at Russia’s anti-gay laws and the general treatment of gay athletes leading up to the games. The political nature of the Google doodle has been picked up by a number of news sources, and one news source noted that the doodle was on the Google Russia homepage.

I think this, as with the same sex marriage event at the Grammy Awards, is a sign of the mainstreaming of LGB rights, but is also a sign that the protests against Russia’s anti-gay laws have been successful at drawing attention to the issue. Even Bob Costas mentioned the controversy around these laws on the first night of Olympic coverage, Thursday night. While the Google doodle will do little to concretely change the situation in Russia, I think it should be celebrated, and certainly should be seen as a win for gay rights advocates. But, I’m open to other interpretations. Thoughts? 

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Filed under Daily Disruption