At the ECPR joint sessions in Mainz, Helen Margetts and Lance Bennett convene the workshop on “Collective Action Online: Theories and Methods”.
Investigation of the mechanics of online participatory behavior is vital to our understanding of contemporary collective action. Meanwhile, there is a growing body of methodologically innovative research in this area. Just as the Internet facilitates collective activity, it also has the potential to generate large scale datasets of real-time transactional data that tells us what people are really doing, as opposed to survey data which tells us what people think they did or might do. Rich data sets can be retrieved and analysed with programming languages, statistics packages, network analysis frameworks, and text and data mining tools via the API of Twitter and Facebook or from Google, the blogosphere and so on. Such data sets facilitate innovative methodologies, such as sophisticated social network analysis and on-line experiments with large subject pools.
The potential is huge; as well as theories and methods developed in offline settings being used to understand online collective action, large scale datasets generated from internet activity and methodological innovation may be used to develop what we know about collective action per se. But development of our theoretical understanding has lagged behind empirical research, in part because those with the technological skills required to generate data may lack the social science understanding required to generate research questions, while those with the questions may lack the technical skills or inclination to generate data or use innovative methods. Multi-disciplinary teams have been formed to carry out this kind of research, but there is a need for more generalized cross-fertilization of ideas among researchers investigating contemporary collective action.
This workshop delves into this body of research developing theoretical frameworks to ‘catch up’ with methodological innovation and computational social science tools. It aims to involve both normative and empirical scholars, discussing the most interesting research questions that Internet-based collective action provokes and the most appropriate methods to answer them. It draws on the theoretical work so far developed; empirical research into civic engagement and political participation online; and the analysis of online social networks using both experimental and ‘big data’ approaches. Comparative studies of mobilizations in different countries and on different social media platforms will be particularly encouraged, given the tendency for studies to focus on one platform in one country context, rather than taking a ‘whole mobilization’ approach which would facilitate generalization and theoretical development.
Please find list the full list of papers here: