Syllabus: The Internet in Political Communication (Spring 2016)

This spring semester at Mannheim I am teaching an updated version of my course on the internet in the context of political communication. Here is the syllabus. In the readings you will find quite a few of the usual suspects but I also hope to have included some texts that offer interesting perspectives but are surprisingly seldom read. Still, this is very much a work in progress. Please get in touch in case you feel I have missed out on key topics or readings.

Background readings
Basbøll, T. Research as a Second Language.
Chadwick, A. 2006. Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies. Oxford, UK et al.: Oxford University Press.
Chadwick, A. & P. N. Howard (Eds.). 2009. The Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics. New York, NY et al.: Routledge.
Jungherr, A. & H. Schoen. 2013. Das Internet in Wahlkämpfen: Konzepte, Wirkungen und Kampagnenfunktionen. Wiesbaden, DE: Springer VS.
Perloff, R. M. 2014. The Dynamics of Political Communication: Media and Politics in a Digital Age. New York, NY: Routledge.
Reynolds, G. 2012. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. 2. ed. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.
Stromer-Galley, J. 2014. Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

What is the internet? Stages in its technological and ideological development
Mandatory readings
Jungherr, A. & H. Schoen. 2013. “Technische Entwicklung und gesellschaftliche Erwartungen: Eine kurze politische Ideengeschichte des Internets”. Das Internet in Wahlkämpfen: Konzepte, Wirkungen und Kampagnenfunktionen, 11-35. Wiesbaden, DE: Springer VS.
Optional readings
Abbate, J. 1999. Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Dreyfus, H. L. 2009. On the Internet. 2nd ed. Oxon, UK: Routledge.
Isaacson, W. 2014. “Ch 7: The Internet” & “Ch 10: Online” & “Ch 11: The Web”. The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, 217-262 & 383-404 & 405-466. New York, NY et al.: Simon & Schuster.
Turner, F. 2006. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism. Chicago, IL et al.: The University of Chicago Press.

Political Expectations and the Internet
The internet: expectations of political change
Mandatory readings
Neuman, W. R., B. Bimber & M. Hindman. 2011. “The Internet and Four Dimensions of Citizenship”. In: The Oxford Handbook of American Public Opinion and the Media, Eds. R. Y. Shapiro & L. R. Jacobs, 22-42. Oxford, UK et al.: Oxford University Press.

Optional readings
Benkler, Y. 2006. The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT et al.: Yale University Press.
Farrell, H. 2012. “The Consequences of the Internet for Politics.” Annual Review of Political Science 15: 35-52.
Wilhelm, A. G. 2000. Democracy in the Digital Age: Challenges to Political Life in Cyberspace. New York, NY et al.: Routledge.

Freelon, D. 2010. “Analyzing online political discussion using three models of democratic communication”. New Media & Society 12(7): 1172-1190.
Karpf, D. 2011. “Open Source Political Community Development: A Five Stage Adoption Process”. Journal of Information Technology & Politics 8(3): 323-345.
Kreiss, D., M. Finn & F. Turner. 2010. “The limits of peer production: Some reminders from Max Weber for the network society”. New Media & Society 13(2): 243-259.

Political Uses of the Internet: Empirical Patterns
Mandatory readings
Vaccari, C. 2013. “Ch 9: Online Political Information in Seven Countries” & “Ch 10: Socioeconomic Inequalities and Online Political Information” & “Ch 11: Political Attitudes and Online Information” & “Ch 12: Political Engagement, Mass Media Use, and Online Information”. Digital Politics in Western Democracies: A Comparative Study, 131-137 & 138-152 & 153-175 & 176-189. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Optional readings
Anduiza, E., M. J. Jensen, & L. Jorba (Eds.). 2012. Digital Media and Political Engagement Worldwide: A Comparative Study. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Copeland, L. & B. Bimber. 2015. “Variation in the Relationship Between Digital Media Use and Political Participation in U.S. Elections Over Time, 1996–2012: Does Obama’s Reelection Change the Picture?” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 12(1): 74-87.
Gil de Zúñiga, H., Molyneux, L., and Zheng, P. (2014). “Social media, political expression and political participation: Panel analysis of lagged and concurrent relationships.” Journal of Communication 64(4): 612-634.
Schlozman, K. L., S. Verba, & H. E. Brady. 2010. “Weapon of the Strong? Participatory Inequality and the Internet.” Perspectives on Politics 8(2): 487-509.

The Use of Websites by Parties
Mandatory readings
Vaccari, C. 2013. “Ch 5: Structures and Features of Political Websites” & “Ch 6: Disparities in Political Websites” & “Ch 7: Party Characteristics and Their Online Presence” & “Ch 8: What Drives the Online Presence of Parties and Candiates”. Digital Politics in Western Democracies: A Comparative Study, 69-86 & 87-97 & 98-110 & 111-130. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Optional readings
Bimber, B. & R. Davis. 2003. Campaigning Online: The Internet in U.S. Elections. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Kluver, R., N. W. Jankowski, K. A. Foot, & S. M. Schneider (Eds.). 2007. The Internet and National Elections: A Comparative Study of Web Campaigning. New York, NY: Routledge.

Kruikemeier, S., A. P. Aparaschivei, H. G. Boomgaarden, G. Van Noort, & R. Vliegenthart. 2015. “Party and Candidate Websites: A Comparative Explanatory Analysis”. Mass Communication and Society 18(6): 821-850.
Lilleker, D. G., K. Koc-Michalska, E. J. Schweitzer, M. Jacunski, N. Jackson, & T. Vedel. 2011. Informing, engaging, mobilizing or interacting: Searching for a European model of web campaigning. European Journal of Communication 26(3): 195–213.

Digital Tools as Integrated Elements of Campaign Organizations
Mandatory readings
Kreiss, D. 2012. “Ch 5: Organisation the Obama Campaign”. Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama, 121-154. Oxford, UK et al.: Oxford University Press.

Optional readings
Earl, J. & R. Kimport. 2011. Digitally enabled social change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Bimber, B., A. J. Flanagin, & C. Stohl. 2012. “Ch 4: The American Legion, AARP, and MoveOn in Collective Action Space”. Collective action in organizations: Interaction and engagement in an era of technological change. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

The internet as tool for coordination and as a resource
Mandatory readings
Hindman, M. 2005. “The Real Lessons of Howard Dean: Reflections on the First Digital Campaign”. Perspectives on Politics 3(1): 121-128.

Optional readings
Bimber, B. 2003. Information and American Democracy: Technology in the Evolution of Political Power. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Nielsen, R. K. 2011. “Mundane Internet Tools, Mobilizing Practices, and the Coproduction of Citizenship in Political Campaigns.” New Media & Society 13(5): 755-771.
Nielsen, R. K. 2012. Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karpf, D. 2012. “Ch 1: The New Generation of Political Advocacy Groups” & “Ch 7: Innovation Edges, Advocacy Inflation, and Sedimentary Organizations”. The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy, 3-21 & 156-172. Oxford, UK, et al.: Oxford University Press.
McKenna, E. & Han, H. 2015. “Ch 4: Building Depth by Investing in Relationships” & “Ch 5: Creating a Structure to Share Responsibility: Neighborhood Teams” & “Ch 6 Using Metrics to Get to Scale”. Groundbreakers: How Obama’s 2.2 Million Volunteers Transformed Campaigning in America, 89-129 & 130-152 & 153-182. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Data driven Campaigning
Mandatory readings
Nickerson, D. W. & T. Rogers. 2014. “Political Campaigns and Big Data”. Journal of Economic Perspectives 28(2): 51–74.
Howard, P. N. 2006. New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Optional readings
Issenberg, S. 2012. The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
Sides, J. & L. Vavreck. 2014. “Obama’s Not-So-Big Data”. Pacific Standard (January 21).

Hersh, E. D. 2015. “Ch 2: The Perceived Voter Model”. Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters, 24-44. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Symbolic uses of the internet in campaigns
Mandatory readings
Kreiss, D. 2012. “Acting in the Public Sphere: The 2008 Obama Campaign’s Strategic Use of New Media to Shape Narratives of the Presidential Race.” Media, Movements, and Political Change 33: 195-223.

Optional readings
Alexander, J.C. 2010. The Performance of Politics: Obama’s Victory and the Democratic Struggle for Power. Oxford, UK et al.: Oxford University Press.
Chadwick, A. 2013. “Symphonic Consonance in Campaign Communication: Reinterpreting Obama for America”. The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power, 113-136. Oxford, UK et al.: Oxford University Press.
Stromer-Galley, J. 2000. “On-Line Interaction and Why Candidates Avoid it”. Journal of Communication 50(4): 111-132.

Kreiss, D. 2011. “Open Source as Practice and Ideology: The Origin of Howard Dean’s Innovations in Electoral Politics.” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 8(3): 367-382.
Kreiss, D. 2014. “Seizing the Moment: The Presidential Campaigns’ Use of Twitter During the 2012 Electoral Cycle”. New Media & Society (Online First).
Stromer-Galley, J. & A. B. Baker. 2006. “Joy and Sorrow of Interactivity on the Campaign Trail: Blogs in the Primary Campaign of Howard Dean.” In: The Internet Election: Perspectives on the Web in Campaign 2004, Eds. A. P. Williams & J. C. Tedesco. Lanham, MD et al.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

The interaction between online communication and political media coverage
Mandatory readings
Chadwick, A. 2011. “Britain’s First Live Televised Party Leaders’ Debate: From the News Cycle to the Political Information Cycle”. Parliamentary Affairs 64(1): 24-44.

Optional readings
Chadwick, A. 2013. The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power. Oxford, UK et al.: Oxford University Press.

Anstead, N. & B. O’Loughlin. 2014. “Social Media Analysis and Public Opinion: The 2010 UK General Election”. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 20(2): 204–220.
Jungherr, A. 2014. “The logic of political coverage on Twitter: Temporal dynamics and content.” Journal of Communication 64(2): 239-259.
Neuman, W. R., L. Guggenheim, S. M. Jang, & S. Y. & Bae. 2014. “The Dynamics of Public Attention: Agenda-Setting Theory Meets Big Data”. Journal of Communication 64(2): 193–214.

Echo chamber or marketplace of ideas
Mandatory readings
Scheufele, D. A. & M. C. Nisbet. 2012. Commentary: Online News and the Demise of Political Disagreement. Communication Yearbook 36: 45-51.

Optional readings
McPherson, M., L. Smith-Lovin & J. M. Cook. 2001. “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks”. Annual Review of Sociology 27: 415-444.
Webster, J. G. 2014. The Marketplace of Attention: How Audiences Take Shape in a Digital Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Garrett, R. K. 2009. “Politically motivated reinforcement seeking: Reframing the selective exposure debate”. Journal of Communication 59(4): 676-699.
Gentzkow, M. & J. M. Shapiro. 2011. “Ideological Segregation Online and Offline”. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 126: 1799-1839.

Research on and with the internet
Mandatory readings
Karpf, D. 2012. “Social science research methods in internet time”. Information, Communication & Society 15(5): 639–661.

Optional readings
Cioffi-Revilla, C. 2014. Introduction to Computational Social Science: Principles and Applications. Heidelberg, DE et al.: Springer.
Jungherr, A. 2015. Analyzing Political Communication with Digital Trace Data: The Role of Twitter Messages in Social Science Research. Heidelberg, DE: Springer.
Rogers, R. 2013. Digital Methods. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Cioffi-Revilla, C. 2010. “Computational social science”. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Computational Statistics 2(3): 259–271.
Freelon, D. 2014. “On the Interpretation of Digital Trace Data in Communication and Social Computing Research”. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 58(1): 59-75.
Jungherr, A., H. Schoen, & P. Jürgens. 2015. The mediation of politics through Twitter: An analysis of messages posted during the campaign for the German federal election 2013. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 21(1): 50-68.
Rogers, R. 2010. “Internet Research: The Question of Method”. Journal of Information Technology and Politics 7(2-3): 241-260.

Why you shouldn’t use Twitter to predict elections

Yesterday the Social Science Computer Review published a new paper by Harald Schoen, Oliver Posegga, Pascal Jürgens, and me on the futility of trying to predict elections with Twitter. This claim shouldn’t be all that controversial, but apparently it is.

Quite a few studies have identified fundamental problems with Twitter-based predictions. Especially Daniel Gayo-Avello has written multiple times about systematic flaws in these attempts, so has Takis Metaxas, and Mark Huberty. More fundamentally Fernando Diaz and colleagues have identified central challenges in interpreting social media data as proxies for survey results because of irregular fluctuations in the services’ user base and difficulties to consistently map this activity to established sentiment or opinion measures. The predictive potential of other digital services has also been challenged. For example, David Lazer, Gary King, and colleagues illustrated general challenges of working with these data by focusing on Google Flu Trends. So skeptics are in good company. Still, where there is a business case, there also is hope.

Building on earlier work, in our new paper we focused on checking the central claim underlying the arguments of proponents of using Twitter to predict elections, implicitly assuming that mentions of political actors somehow indicate political support. On the face of it, this argument seems highly unlikely but a series of apparently positive findings give the impression that there might be something to it. If we look closely at the data, though, we find that Twitter mentions much more likely indicate public attention towards politics, a concept that sometimes–but far from always–might be correlated with political support. As we state in the article:

“Our evidence raises doubts with regard to the validity of Twitter-based metrics as indicator for political support. In addition, trends in the daily mention counts of political parties showed no systematic link with trends in opinion polls. Instead, the dynamics in the daily mention counts of parties appear to correspond with media events, media coverage of politics, and controversies. It, therefore, appears far more likely that Twitter-based metrics measure public attention toward politics than political support. Sometimes attention might be a covariate of support, but this relationship is far from stable. Our analysis underscores the importance of approaching the use of digital trace data in the measurement and analysis of political and social phenomena cautiously and emphasizes the importance of using established standards of social science methodology in indicator validation to avoid premature conclusions.”

Thus, studies identifying Twitter to be a predictor of electoral results might in fact have identified cases in which public attention, manifested in Twitter messages, was correlated with public support. But, as the many negative findings by us and other researchers indicate, this relationship is far from universal. To use Twitter as indicator of electoral fortunes might thus be simply betting on the stability of the link between attention and support in any given election. A stability which various politicians at the center of controversy and scandal might doubt.

To be sure, this is not to say that Twitter-data do not hold significant potential for public opinion research. As we have stated elsewhere, Twitter messages mirror parts of social and political life mediated through the interests, attention, and motivations of Twitter users. There is a host of topics in which Twitter-data might be productively used:

Likely candidates for political phenomena to create digital traces are political media events, intense media coverage of politics, or public controversies. Accordingly, future research may focus on using Twitter data to analyze which kind of political information attracts Twitter users’ attention and is distributed online. This gives rise to important questions concerning the sources, that is, the media, political elites, or social networks, and conditions successful in getting Twitter users to pay attention to political information. Thus, Twitter has the potential to become a source of insight into conditions and dynamics of attention toward politics.

Unfortunately, much of recent research attention has been focused on trying to make Twitter-data fit other measurements of political and social life. While the hope for finding cheap and readily available proxies for expensive and slow survey-based measures of public opinion is understandable, Twitter might be an unlikely candidate to provide this proxy. So instead of overextending our expectations scholars should probably leave predictions to consultants and instead:

“[…] should acknowledge the conditional nature of findings more freely and be more careful in considering and analyzing the consequences of potentially varying data-generating mechanisms. This might lead Twitter-based research to free itself from inflated early expectations to find proxies of public opinion in Twitter-data and instead focus on the potential of digital trace data in yielding insights into public attention toward political information. Digital trace data may thus provide valuable information for public opinion research, though on different phenomena than those on which prior research focused.”

Andreas Jungherr, Harald Schoen, Oliver Posegga, and Pascal Jürgens. 2016. Digital Trace Data in the Study of Public Opinion: An Indicator of Attention Toward Politics Rather Than Political Support. Social Science Computer Review. (Online First). doi: 10.1177/0894439316631043 [Online Appendix]

This paper’s findings have be covered by The Hill, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Reuters, Ars Technica UK, Fortune, Politico EU, The World Economic Forum, and others.

Syllabus: Explaining Political Behavior and Attitudes through Political Psychology

For this spring semester, I designed a new course introducing students to the use of concepts from political psychology and political sociology in explaining political behavior and attitudes. The course is a mix of theory and practical exercises.

In the first part of the course, students are introduced to a selection of central concepts and their operationalization in publicly available data sets from the USA and Germany like the American National Election Studies (ANES) and German Longitudinal Election Studies (GLES). In the second part, students are asked to use these concepts and datasets in individual research projects. The aim of the course is to introduce students to translating theoretical concepts into operationalizations and examine them through simple data analyses. Here is the syllabus.


Background Readings:
Basbøll, T. Research as a Second Language.
Berinsky, A. J. (Ed.). 2016. New Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge.
Clawson, R. A. & Z. M. Oxley. 2013. Public Opinion: Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice. 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Cottam, M. K., E. Mastors, T. Preston, & B. Dietz. 2015. Introduction to Political Psychology. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Routledge.
Kabacoff, R. I. R in Action: Data Analysis and Graphics with R. 2nd ed. Shelter Island, NY:
Kaplan, D. T. (2012). Statistical Modeling: A Fresh Approach. 2nd ed. Project MOSAIC.

Federico, C. M. 2016. The Structure, Foundations, and Expression of Ideology. In: A. J. Berinsky (Ed.). New Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge (pp. 81-103).
Federico, C. M. & C. V. Hunt. 2013. Political Information, Political Involvement, and Reliance on Ideology in Political Evaluation. Political Behavior 35(1): 89-112.
Neundorf, A. 2011. Die Links-Rechts-Dimension auf dem Prüfstand: Ideologisches Wählen in Ost- und Westdeutschland 1990-2008. In: R. Schmitt-Beck (Ed.). Politische Vierteljahresschrift Sonderheft 45: Wählen in Deutschland. Baden-Baden: Nomos (S. 234-257).

Czaja, E., J. Junn, & T. Mendelberg. 2016. Race, Ethnicity, and the Group Bases of Public Opinion. In: A. J. Berinsky (Ed.). New Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge (pp. 104-123).
Lee, T. 2008. Race, Immigration, and the Identity-to-Politics Link. Annual Review of Political
Science 11: 457-478.
Wüst, A. M. 2011. Dauerhaft oder temporär? Zur Bedeutung des Migrationshintergrunds für Wahlbeteiligung und Parteiwahl bei der Bundestagswahl 2009. In: R. Schmitt-Beck (Ed.). Politische Vierteljahresschrift Sonderheft 45: Wählen in Deutschland. Baden-Baden: Nomos (S. 164-185).

Burns, N., A. E. Jardina, D. Kinder, & M. E. Reynolds. 2016. The Politics of Gender. In: A. J. Berinsky (Ed.). New Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge (pp. 124-145).
Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., S. de Boeff, & T. M. Lin. 2004. The Dynamics of the Partisan Gender Gap. American Political Science Review 98(3): 515-528.
Giger, N. & S. Huber. 2015. Der Einfluss des Geschlechts auf Kandidatenbeurteilungen: Eine experimentelle Studie zu Kontexteffekten und individuellen Faktoren in Deutschland. In: T. Faas, C. Frank, & H. Schoen (Eds.). Politische Vierteljahresschrift Sonderheft 50: Politische Psychologie. Baden-Baden: Nomos (S. 333-359).

Political Partisanship
Hetherington, M. 2016. Partisanship and Polarization in Contemporary Politics. In: A. J. Berinsky (Ed.). New Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge (pp. 146-164).
Carsey, T. M. & G. C. Layman. 2006. Changing Sides or Changing Minds? Party Identification and Policy Preferences in the American Electorate. American Journal of Political Science 50(2): 464-477.
Neundorf, A., D. Stegmueller, & T. J. Scotto. 2011. The Individual-Level Dynamics of Bounded Partisanship. Public Opinion Quarterly 75(3): 458-482.

Mondak, J. J. & M. V. Hibbing. 2016. Personality and Public Opinion. In: A. J. Berinsky (Ed.). New
Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge (pp. 165-185).
Gerber, A. S., G. A. Huber, D. Doherty, C. M. Dowling, C. Raso, & S. E. Ha. 2011. Personality Traits and Participation in Political Processes. The Journal of Politics 73(3): 692-706.
Schoen, H. & M. Steinbrecher. 2013. Beyond Total Effects: Exploring the Interplay of Personality and Attitudes in Affecting Turnout in the 2009 German Federal Election. Political Psychology 34(4): 533-552.

Campbell, D. E., G. C. Layman, & J. C. Green. 2016. A Jump to the Right, A Step to the Left: Religion and Public Opinion. In: A. J. Berinsky (Ed.). New Directions in Public Opinion. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge (pp. 232-257).
Barker, D. C. & C. J. Charman. 2000. The Spirit of Capitalism? Religious Doctrine, Values, and Economic Attitude Constructs. Political Behavior 22(1): 1-27.
Roßteutscher, S. 2011. Die konfessionell-religiöse Konfliktlinie zwischen Säkularisierung und Mobilisierung. In: R. Schmitt-Beck (Ed.). Politische Vierteljahresschrift Sonderheft 45: Wählen in Deutschland. Baden-Baden: Nomos (S. 118-140).

Group Identity
Abdelal, R., Y. M. Herrera, A. I. Johnston, & R. McDemott. 2009. Identity as a Variable. In: R. Abdelal, Y. M. Herrera, A. I. Johnston, & R. McDemott (Eds.). Measuring Identity: A Guide for Social Scientists. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press (17-32).
Sylvan, D. A. & A. K. Metskas. 2009. Trade-offs in Measuring Identities: A Comparison of Five Approaches. In: R. Abdelal, Y. M. Herrera, A. I. Johnston, & R. McDemott (Eds.). Measuring Identity: A Guide for Social Scientists. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press (72-109).
McClain, P. D., J. D. Johnson Carew, E. Walton, Jr., & C. S. Watts. 2009. Group Membership, Group Identity, and Group Consciousness: Measures of Racial Identity in American Politics? Annual Review of Political Science 12: 471-485.

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.