Lance Bennett in Mannheim

This semester, the MZES colloquium has proven somewhat of a highlight for researchers interested in the effects of the internet and digital tools on politics and political communication. Earlier this semester Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Homero Gil de Zúñiga both gave fascinating talks on questions related to this. Next Monday, October 26, 2015, the MZES colloquium features another great speaker on the topic. Lance Bennett will talk about his concept, the logic of connective action. This talk should be self-recommending for you if you are interested in the role of the internet in politics, protests, and collective action. The talk starts Monday, October 26, 2015 at 12.00 in building A 5,6 room A 231 and is open to the public.

The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics

A number of diverse, large scale protest movements have appeared around the world in recent years: the Arab Spring, the M15 or los indignados in Spain, Occupy Wall Street, the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, and Black Lives Matter in the U.S., among others. These large-scale, sustained protests use digital media in ways that go beyond sending and receiving messages. In these technology enabled protests, communication becomes an important part of the organizational process. Understanding such large-scale action networks requires a different theoretical framework than the logic of collective action that is generally used to explain conventional collective action based on formal organization, resource mobilization, and leadership aimed at motivating participation and building collective identities. This talk explores a logic of connective action that is based on self-motivated, personalized content sharing over social networks that require less formal leadership or hierarchical organization. This organizational process is explained using methods developed to model information flows through an Occupy Wall Street data set of 60 million tweets.

W. Lance Bennett is Professor of Political Science and Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, where he directs the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement ( The focus of his work is on how communication processes affect citizen engagement with politics. His most recent book is The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contentious Politics (with Alexandra Segerberg, Cambridge, 2013). He has received the Ithiel de Sola Pool and Murray Edelman career recognition awards from the American Political Science Association. He has also received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the U.S. National Communication Association, and the ICA Fellow Award from the International Communication Association, both for lifetime achievement in the study of human communication. He currently holds a Humboldt Research Fellowship at Free University, Berlin.

Conference Program: The Empiricist’s Challenge: Asking Meaningful Questions in Political Science in the Age of Big Data

The date of our conference The Empiricist’s Challenge: Asking Meaningful Questions in Political Science in the Age of Big Data is rapidly approaching and we finalized our program. We were lucky to get many fascinating paper submissions so it surely looks like we are in for two very exciting and stimulating days! Have a look at our program.

The Empiricist’s Challenge: Asking Meaningful Questions in the Age of Big Data

Conference Program


9.00 – 9.45: Introduction

  • Introduction by conference organisers
  • Introduction by Head of department
  • Introduction by participants

—15 mins break—

10.00 – 10.45: Keynote W. Lance Bennett

10.45 Panel 1: Collective Action and Campaigning

  • 10.45 – 11.00: Contentious Politics on Twitter: A Methodological Approach to Social Media Research in Protest Politics—Camilo Cristancho-Mantilla (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)
  • 11.00 – 11.15: Political Advertising in the Age of Big Data: Microtargeting and its Implications for Political Science Research—Young Mie Kim (University of Wisconsin-Madison) & Daniel Kreiss (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • 11.15 – 11.30: Transnational Human Rights Advocacy and Big Data—Steven Livingston (University of Washington) & Patrick Meier (Qatar Computing Research Institute)
  • Q & A: 11.30 – 12.00

13.30 Panel 2: Social Media Networks and Audiences

  • 13.30-13.43: Online Media Networks and Audience Flow: Mapping the Fragmentation in News Production and Consumption on the Web—Sílvia Majó-Vázquez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), Ana Sofía Cardenal (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) & Sandra González-Bailón (University of Pennsylvania)
  • 13.45-14.00: “Mutual ignoring” as the Generative Mechanism of Cyberbalkanization: Evidence from a Hong Kong Facebook Pages Sharing Network—Chung-hong Chan & King-wa Fu (Hong Kong University)
  • 14.00-14.15: “Twitter Friend Repertoires” Researching Patterns of Selective Connectivity—Lisa Merten, Wiebke Loosen, Jan-Hinrik Schmidt, Uwe Hasebrink & Sascha Hölig (Hans Bredow Institute, University of Hamburg)
  • Q & A: 14.15 – 14.30

— 14.30 – 15.00 Coffee break —

15.00 – 15.45 Keynote Sandra González-Bailón

15:45 Panel 3: Government and Public Administration

  • 15.45-16.00: How Political Tenure Alters Responsiveness to Citizen Engagement in China: Evidence from Computational and Experimental Methods—Jennifer Pan (Stanford University)
  • 16.00- 16.15: Web Tracking with Chinese Characteristics: An Investigation of Hidden Data Flows in the Middle Kingdom—Timothy Libert (University of Pensylvania) & Bo Mai (University of Pennsylvania)
  • 16.15-16.30: Transparency in Public Procurement: The Strengths and Challenges of Big Data—Mihály Fazekas (University of Cambridge) & Luciana Cingolani (Hertie School of Government)
  • Q & A: 16.30 – 16.45

17.00 – 18.00 Keynote Richard Rogers

— 16.45 Coffee break —


9.00 Panel 4: Qualitative Perspectives

  • 9.00-9.15: Big Data and Democracy—Ashley Gorham (University of Pennsylvania)
  • 9.15-9.30: Introducing Qualitative Big-Data Text Analysis: An Integrated Approach Beyond the Quantitative-Qualitative Divide—Anton Törnberg (Gothenburg University) & Petter Törnberg (Chalmers University of Technology)
  • 9.30-9.45: The Challenges of Social Media—Bob Boynton (University of Iowa)
  • 9.45-10.00: Using Ethnography to Support Trace Data Collection—Arto Kekkonen (Aalto University), Salla-Maria Laaksonen (Helsinki University), Mari Martilla (Aalto University), Matti Nelimarkka (Helsinki University & Aalto University) & Mari Tuokko (Aalto University)
  • Q & A: 10.00 – 10.20

— 10.20 Coffee break —

11.00 Keynote Jonathan Nagler

— 12.00 – 12.20 Sandwiches & coffee —

12.20-12.45 lunch lecture by Rachel Gibson

— 12.45 – 13.00 coffee at the MZES —

13.00 Panel 5: Public Opinion

  • 13.00-13.15: Using Wikipedia Page View Statistics to Measure Issue Salience—Simon Munzert (University of Konstanz)
  • 13.15-13.30: Less is More? How Demographic Sample Weights can Improve Public Opinion Estimates Based on Twitter data—Pablo Barberá (New York University)
  • 13.30-13.45: Keeping the Old Game Alive: Using Survey Methods to Improve Big Data Measures of Public Mood—Heinz Brandenburg (University of Strathclyde), Marcel van Egmond (University of Amsterdam), Rob Johns (University of Essex), Maarja Lühiste (University of Newcastle), Peter Selb (University of Konstanz) & Laura Sudulich (University of Kent)
  • Q & A: 13.45 – 14.00

– 14.00 – 14.30 Coffee break —

Roundtable/open feedback round: 14.30 – 16.00

Syllabus: Introduction to Research Practices in Political Science

The second course, I’ll give semester is a general introduction to research practices in political science. I am not all that happy with the readings for the course, so if you have any advice for good introductory texts for first semester Bachelor students, it would be very much appreciated.

Syllabus: Psychological Mechanisms of Political Communication

This semester, I will take my course Psychological Mechanisms of Political Communication out for a second spin at the University of Mannheim. For this version, I moved somewhat farther away from a standard political communication course by dropping sections on the spiral of silence and opinion leaders and instead included sections on information processing, heuristics, and political knowledge. This should be fun.