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University of Michigan School of Information


Systematic Comparative and Historical Analysis Framework for Social Movements

Online social movements are playing an increasingly important role in contentious politics. The past decade has seen multiple regimes toppled in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt as a consequence of protests that came to life online. Domestically, movements such as Black Lives Matter have gained significant traction in online spaces. Most studies of online social movements focus on a single case study and use data from a single social media platform. In addition, due to API limitations, researchers generally are forced to make arbitrary data collection decisions — some use keyword searches to collect data while others examine data generated by a subpopulation of interest.

As a consequence, it is difficult to ascertain whether these studies’ findings accurately capture the movements on which they focus. And perhaps more important, it is impossible to determine the extent to which their findings are generalizable to social movements and media platforms more broadly.

The project will: 

(i.) propose methods for optimizing data collection strategies

(ii.) present methods for optimizing data labeling

(iii.) analyze the development, coordination and success for social movements of varying scales under different data collection and labeling schemes

(iv.) model determinants of protest participation and movement success using curated data

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The amount of the award is $495,942 for UMSI for the project period. The grant is funded by the National Science Foundation.