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Investigating the structure and connectivity of online global protest networks

The rise of social networking tools, accompanied by the mass adoption of mobile devices, has strengthened the impact and broadened the reach of today’s political protests. OII researchers Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon and Ning Wang discuss their paper, ‘The Bridges and Brokers of Global Campaigns in the context of Social Media’, which investigates whether the ‘fluidity, horizontality and connectivity’ often claimed for online protest networks stands up to empirical scrutiny.

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How accessible are online legislative data archives to political scientists?

Despite the technical advances in Internet archival systems, websites commonly lack comprehensive and systematic data collection and retrieval processes. David Leal, University of Texas at Austin, discusses these issues in his recently-published study in Policy and Internet, co-authored with Taofang Huang, B.J. Lee, and Jill Strube, Assessing the Online Legislative Resources of the American States. It addresses the potential and problems that can be encountered when using U.S. state online legislative resources for political science research, and presents a tool for evaluating the feasibility of research projects.

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Online crowd-sourcing of scientific data could document the worldwide loss of glaciers to climate change

There are about 300,000 glaciers worldwide, representing 69% of the world’s fresh water, and a dependable water supply to more than a billion people. Glaciers also provide a key (and very visible) indicator for climate change. Klaus Thymann, a director at Project Pressure — the world’s first crowdsourced archive of glacier images — discusses how photography can provide a unique and important online data resource for climate scientists studying glacial retreat. Launching in 2014, the project’s partners include NASA and the World Glacier Monitoring Service.

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Time for debate about the societal impact of the Internet of Things

Despite the growing ubiquity and connectivity of the consumer devices and other objects that make up the “Internet of Things”, very little is understood about the likely social impacts of the technology. Jeremy Crump is chair of the BCS Internet of Things working group and a Director at Cisco Systems. In February 2013 he chaired a joint BCS-OII seminar on the societal impact of the Internet of Things with Ian Brown (OII); a summary of the contributions is published on the BCS website.

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Why do (some) political protest mobilisations succeed?

Social media are helping researchers gain insights into how people self-organize, and how bottom-up dynamics facilitate or hinder the emergence of large political mobilisations. OII Research Fellow Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon discusses how the dynamics of message propagation and recruitment help explain why some mobilisations succeed, but most fail. This post draws on her article “From Chiapas to Tahrir: Networks and the Diffusion of Protest” (World Politics Review, 16 April 2013).

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Uncovering the structure of online child exploitation networks

As the problem of child pornography online continues to grow, it has become imperative that law enforcement resources be allocated in the most efficient manner. Martin Bouchard of Simon Fraser University discusses the web-crawling tool he designed (with colleagues Bryce Westlake and Richard Frank) to automate the process of searching for child pornography websites, and to identify the ‘key players’ that should be prioritized by law enforcement agencies seeking to disrupt child exploitation networks.

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The “IPP2012: Big Data, Big Challenges” conference explores the new research frontiers opened up by big data .. as well as its limitations

Recent years have seen an increasing buzz around how ‘Big Data’ can uncover patterns of human behaviour and help predict social trends. Most social activities today leave digital imprints that can be collected and stored in the form of large datasets of transactional data. Access to this data presents powerful and often unanticipated opportunities for […]

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Slicing digital data: methodological challenges in computational social science

It is easy to drown in digital data and not know what to do with it. OII Research Fellow Sandra Gonzalez-Bailon discusses some of the methodological challenges faced by social scientists when they try to make sense of the immense wealth of digital data available today. This is a talk given at the conference on new media and the social sciences, organised by the National Centre for Research Methods (29 May 2012).

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