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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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2016-12-20

Call for Papers – The Politics of Big Data at the ECPR General Conference

Papers proposals are invited for the upcoming Section on “Political Sciences and the Big Data Challenge From Big Data in Politics to the Politics of Big Data” at the ECPR General Conference (Oslo 6-9 September 2017).

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In occasion of the next ECPR General Conference (Oslo 6-9 September 2017) we invite papers for any of the panels in the section “Political Sciences and the Big Data Challenge From Big Data in Politics to the Politics of Big Data“. More detailed info on panels and the overall section can be found below.

Please submit paper proposals to the section chairs elena.pavan@sns.it and alice.mattoni@sns.it by January the 15th 2017 including the following info: (1) papers titles and abstracts (no more than 500 words); (2) institutional affliliation; (3) institutional email address.

We will then arrange the selected papers in panels and submit them to the ECPR via their electronic platform. Please note that paper authors must be registered in the ECPR electronic platform with the email address they will include in the paper proposals.

Section outline and themes

This section aims to open a much-needed space for developing within the ECPR context a critical and informed reflection on the multi-faceted nexus between Big Data and political science. It understands Big Data not solely in terms of large-scale datasets of textual or digital data that require us to tune our research practices. More radically, it starts from a conceptualization of Big Data as a complex set of cultural, political and scientific knowledge practices that challenge the traditional modes in which research questions are posed and framed, analyses are performed, as well as the ways in which results are communicated to the public and thus affect public discourse and debates. Consistently, the section comprises a set of panels that aim to investigate two interrelated aspects. On the one hand, panels will engage with how Big Data are leveraging our understanding of political dynamics within complex societies. In this respect, the section will consider applications of Big Data in connection to public opinion and institutional politics (party dynamics, political communications, etc.) as well as in relation to the study of contemporary forms of collective action and unconventional political participation (social movements, digital activism and the like). On the other, panels will develop a specific take on Big Data, considering how they become a contested research and political terrain, and thus inviting critical reflections on methodological and epistemological implications but also on the power dynamics that entwine with the increased datification of our societies. In this sense, this Section offers a unique occasion to foster the convergence of scholars and researchers currently working on the value of Big Data for studying politics but also on the politics of Big Data themselves. With this aim in mind, the panels in this Section will welcome papers employing different theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches on Big Data, with a single-case or a comparative multinational and/or multiplatform perspective. More specifically, the Section will welcome papers on the following topics.

Big data, public opinion and institutional politics

Digital social behaviors and, particularly, social media communications and interactions are increasingly considered a fundamental component of electoral campaigns, governmental and legislative dynamics as well as of the relationships and the interactions between party members and political leaders with their constituencies. Thus, it is in the online public discourse unravelling on social media platforms that politicians and policy-makers lean to an increasing extent to have the pulse of ongoing and ever evolving political trends and public opinions. This panel invites papers that apply Big Data to the study of contemporary political institutional and/or public opinion dynamics with national or comparative perspectives thus providing a space to inquiry about how this type of data and related methodological and analytical practices can leverage our understanding of traditional political science topics.

Big data and unconventional political participations

The rapid diffusion and increased use of social media platforms in grassroots politics has relevant consequences for the organization of social movements and their forms of protest. While more traditional forms of collective actions still exist, grassroots politics often follows a logic of connective action according to which collective actors are less central than in the past for the success of mobilizations. Moreover, activists lean increasingly on web-based platforms and internet services that produce Big Data flows worldwide. This panel invites papers that investigate to what extent Big Data are changing the way in which activists organize and protest with national or comparative perspectives thus providing a space to inquiry about how this type of data and related methodological and analytical practices can leverage our understanding of grassroots political participation today.

A paradigm shift for political science? Discussing Big Data epistemology and its implication for political studies

Recent events, such as the last USA Presidential elections, have clearly shown the potentials and, perhaps, even to a larger extent, the criticalities of predictive analytical practices in the study of political dynamics. The time seems more than ripe to begin re-addressing the methodological practices that underpin our understanding of sociopolitical dynamics – in particular in relation to our extensive use of large-scale digital and textual datasets which are deemed to be “representative” of citizens’ political preferences, desires, and priorities. Consistently, this panel invites papers that address, theoretically or empirically, the potentialities and the criticalities of Big Data as a new epistemological practice for producing valid and socially relevant scientific knowledge in the field of political science.

Big data as a political terrain: deconstructing and approaching critically datification

Big Data are not a neutral field of practice and knowledge, in particular when it comes to politics. Political actors, economic actors and media actors understand in different ways the concept of big data. More precisely, when political parties and social movements engage with Big Data, they often evoke specific, and contrasting, understanding of what datification processes means in and for politics. This panel invites papers that deconstruct and approach critically processes of datification in contemporary politics by looking at the intersections between different political cultures and (big) data cultures, focusing on the discourses and imaginaries that political actors develop around Big Data, and investigating the media practices related to the construction, manipulation and subversion of Big Data within the political realm.

 

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