The proliferation of ample, publicly available information from varied sources is an outcome that we should celebrate as scholars. While this proliferation does not offer a panacea for all research needs, it does offer numerous insights unavailable to scholars a generation ago. This potential for insight stems not only from increased data availability, but also from the sociological imagination and creativity of movement scholars who can leverage the flexibility afforded by modern information systems.
For this dialog, I would like to focus exclusively on “quantitative data” from publicly available sources, using passive data collection methods, for the purpose of better understanding social mobilization. In doing so, I will sidestep or only lightly touch upon subjects such as online activism and its implications offline, active data collection (e.g., administering online surveys), questions of research ethics and privacy related to online media, and methods of data analysis. Though these related topics warrant significant attention from the subject at hand, serious attention to these issues would divert from my ability to succinctly address this dialog’s theme. Continue reading