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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

Holiday Readings

Looks like I actually will be able to get some reading done between christmas and new year. It’s about time. The ratio of read to unread books in my flat has become rather embarrassing. So this is the list:

Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age by Larry M. Bartels

Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877 by Walter A. McDougall

The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000 by Peter Brown

Hayek’s Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F. A. Hayek by Bruce Caldwell

and finally

Die Philosophie Karl Poppers by Herbert Keuth

Well, at least that‘s the plan.

Are you planning to do some reading? If so, what‘s on your list?

The Shelves of my Quantum Library

A few days ago @zenpundit wrote on his blog about the concept of the quantum library. Jay@Soob has tracked this idea back to a posting on The Innovationist blog. Here a quantum library is defined as containing

the layer that co-exists as a member of both the Library and the Anti-Library. It is something you may have read, but when read again with a different perspective it exists in another form. These type’s of books are the ultimate for a bibliophile. It is the layer described above and contains the texts that you re-read.

Since a former project by @zenpundit and Soob regarding the antilibrary proved to be great fun, I started to think about my quantum library. So, after careful consideration, here are the books that qualify for the shelves of my quantum library:

Niccolò Machiavelli: Il Principe For a political scientist with a focus on the dos and don‘ts of practical political leadership, this is an embarrassingly obvious choice. Machiavelli’s short text proves different each time around. It was a different book after I visited Firenze, I read it differently after I worked on a political campaign and when I reread it in preparation for my thesis I found yet another text. Now I am waiting for its next incarnation.

Michel de Montaigne: Essays Montaigne is the grand seigneur of all the men of letters. Locking himself away from the world and writing his multi-volume essays was in itself stuff of legends. The scope of his work guarantees different discoveries each time one opens the meanwhile well worn pages.

Jorge Luis Borges: Ficciones and El Aleph Borges’ short stories are always rewarding but I find myself regularly revisiting his stories “The Immortal” and “The Babylon Lottery“. Always rich and always different.

Golo Mann: Wallenstein This incredibly detailed narrative of Wallensteins life and time tells of a man of action who in a time of manic change chose the vita activa. Like all great biographies this account of an active life changes its meaning to the reader with personal experience of battles won and battles lost.

Umberto Eco: Il pendolo di Foucault The first time I read Eco’s Pendulum I read it as a thriller of ideas. Only the second time I found it to be one of the greatest parables on the profession of historians. The permanent rewriting of history from the perspective of an ever advancing present has in all its grotesque splendor been seldom portrayed so accurately and so entertaining.

What would one find on the shelves of your quantum library?

The Shelves of my Antilibrary

In June, on a previous incarnation of this blog, I wrote about my antilibrary. Since meanwhile the concept of the quantum library makes the rounds I decided to reblog my antilibrary post as a preparation for the libraries to come. If you already read this please bear with me and wait for the shelves to come.

In his great book “The Black Swan“? Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduces the concept of an antilibrary:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with ‘Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?’ and others – a very small minority- who get the point that a private library is not an ego boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: “The Black Swan”? 2007: p. 1.

The blogosphere has picked up on the antilibrary starting with the viral post “What is in your Antilibrary?“? by Münzenberg. I found this post via the blog zenpundit by @zenpundit. This made me look at my own shelves. So what books are in my antilibrary?

Through the work on my thesis I started to get more interested in the scientific process of the social sciences. Especially the divide between the formalistic and the hermeneutic approach to the enquiry into social phenomena seems fascinating to me. Therefor the books in my antilibrary show that interest:

Jon Elster: Explaining Social Behavior: More Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences. A great introduction into the basic concepts of social sciences. What are social sciences? What are valid questions that social scientists are able to answer? What is in the methodological toolkit of a social scientist?

Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic and Amos Tversky: Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. And: Thomas Gilovich, Dale Griffin and Daniel Kahneman: Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment. Two great collections of articles dealing with human decisionmaking. A constant reminder how great social science looks like.

Hans-Georg Gadamer: Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik. One of the foundations for the 20th century school of hermeneutics. What are the boundaries of analytical methods for the analysis of social phenomena? What can we gain in understanding through the hermeneutic circle?

Michael Mann: The Sources of Social Power. One of the most ambitious academic projects of modern sociology. What are the constants in the organization of human societies? How is power distributed in societies?

Which books are on the shelves of your antilibrary?