The Centre on Social Movement Studies


CFP: Analyzing protest in the digital age. Challenges and opportunities in combining text and video sources

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A conference on
Analyzing protest in the digital age
Challenges and opportunities in combining text and video sources

Donatella della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore
Swen Hutter, Freie Universität Berlin & WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Place and date
WZB Berlin Social Science Center, December 7-8, 2023

Call for Papers
The conference aims to broaden the methodological debate about the opportunities and challenges of digital data analysis for extending research on the repertoire of protest. While social movements do much more than protest, protest actions are a primary channel through which they pressure decision-makers, become visible to the public, and generate commitment from their supporters. Therefore, social movement scholars havedeveloped various methodologies to analyze the evolving action repertoire – studying events either in depth, through ethnographic methods, or in aggregate, as in protest event analysis, usually based on newspapers or other textual sources. With the spread of digital technologies, we have seen a (rapid and enormous) increase in the availability of diverse materials for studying protest actions. For example, the proliferation of and easy access to video material has led to its widespread application across the social sciences, especially by scholars invested in processual and relational approaches. At the conference, we want to build bridges between scholars using digital sources and methodologies and classical protest event research.
The conference builds upon a joint project at the Center on Social Movement Studies (Cosmos) at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence and the Center for Civil Society Research, a joint initiative of the Freie Universität Berlin and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. The project aims at developing ways to expand classical protest event analysis through the use of videos on contentious events that are increasingly available on the Internet. As research on social movement communication has noted, activists increasingly use cameras (often from smartphones) to record protest events and post them on social media and various platforms. In addition, also journalists increasingly use visuals in their coverage, publishing videos of contentious events on newspaper websites. The latter also, at times, invite activists to deposit their visual materials or connect with activist media in a hybrid media environment. This is all the more the case for less routinized forms of protest, for large events, and for episodes of radicalization—which are indeed the types of protests more often covered by any type of media. In addition, activist-generated content is more likely to be used at events populated mainly by younger and more technologically savvy generations and where personalized politics is more appreciated.
At the conference, we would like to critically discuss how such video-enhanced protest event analysis might be able to contribute to expanding two frontiers in protest event research. On the one hand, it might contribute through a sort of digital ethnography to
a triangulation of sources oriented to increase the validity of written sources, which we call the extractive function of video-enhanced protest event analysis. On the other hand, it can also be used in a reconstructive way by extending the range of information available with particular attention to the emotional atmosphere, the collective framing, the choreography of the event, the collective and individual participation as well as processes and dynamics more generally.
We invite submissions by scholars engaged in related efforts to expand classical protest event research in the digital age and in different parts of the world. We welcome contri- butions from scholars working on text-as data, image and video classification, but also from scholars working on situational and interactional dynamics relying on digital ethnography or aiming to combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to study the dynamics and structure of protest repertoires.

How to participate?
Scholars interested to participate are invited to submit an abstract of about 250 words and a short bio, including affiliation and contact information to donatella.dellaporta@sns.it and swen.hutter@wzb.eu.

No conference fees are required. Unfortunately, we cannot cover travelling costs, but we will provide logistical support, catering and a conference dinner.
If you have any questions, please send us an email.

● Deadline to apply is 9 July 2023
● The proposals will be evaluated by the organizers by 26 July 2023



CFP: Analyzing protest in the digital age. Challenges and opportunities in combining text and video sources

Organizers Donatella della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore Swen Hutter, Freie Universität Berlin & WZB Berlin Social Science Center Place and date WZB Berlin Social Science Center, December 7-8, 2023


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Journal Article - 2023

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Lorenzo Zamponi
From the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing measures introduced created a series of social problems and needs that were partially addressed in Italy as well as in other countries by grassroots mutual aid initiatives. While many of these initiatives were strongly rooted in the Italian social movement and civil society landscape and the choice to engage in mutual aid activities was the result of long years of reflection and planning, the article shows how strongly the temporality of emergency affected the nature of these initiatives, their development and their outcomes, in particular with regard to the extraordinary number of people who volunteered and their relationship with politicisation processes.

Monograph - 2023

Populism and (Pop) Music

Manuela Caiani, Enrico Padoan
The book provides a detailed account of the links between production of popular culture to the rise of populism and contributes to studies on populism and popular culture in Italy, using a comparative approach and a cultural sociology perspective

Journal Article - 2023

Reflective Inclusion: Learning from Activists What Taking a Deliberative Stance Means.

Andrea Felicetti, Markus Holdo
We propose to adopt a principle we call “reflective inclusion,” which allows us to engage abductively with new actions that might expand and deepen our understanding of what deliberation may look like.

Journal Article - 2022

The mobilization for spatial justice in divided societies. Urban commons, trust reconstruction and socialist memory in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Chiara Milan
The article contributes to the urban studies literature and the study of social movements in divided societies by disclosing the distinctive features and mobilizing potential that the notion of urban commons retains in a war-torn society with a socialist legacy.

Journal Article - 2022

Populists in power and conspiracy theories

Andrea Pirro & Paul Taggart
Looking at three cases of populists in government – Orbán in Hungary, Trump in the United States, and Chávez in Venezuela – we examine the definition of conspiring elites (who), the circumstances under which conspiracy theories are propagated (when), and the ultimate purpose of conspiratorial framing (why).

Monograph - 2022

Resisting the Backlash: Street Protest in Italy

Donatella della Porta, Niccolò Bertuzzi, Daniela Chironi, Chiara Milan, Martín Portos & Lorenzo Zamponi
Drawing interview material, together with extensive data from the authors’ original social movement database, this book examines the development of social movements in resistance to perceived political "regression" and a growing right-wing backlash.

Journal Article - 2022

(Water) Bottles and (Street) Barricades: The Politicisation of Lifestyle-Centred Action in Youth Climate Strike Participation

Lorenzo Zamponi, Anja Corinne Baukloh, Niccolò Bertuzzi, Daniela Chironi, Donatella della Porta, Martín Portos
This article explores the forms of action adopted by participants in two Fridays For Future (FFF) strikes, focusing on the repertoires of action of (young) climate justice protesters. Drawing on protest survey data, it shows demonstrated that young protesters do not participate less in claim-based action than older cohorts. Furthermore, a process of politicisation can be seen to be unfolding that leads to increased commitment in both lifestyle and political forms of participation – at least among active milieus.

Journal Article - 2022

Performing (during) the Coronavirus crisis: The Italian populist radical right between national opposition and subnational government

Andrea Pirro
The first year of COVID-19 confirmed the standing of the populist radical right in Italy. While sitting in opposition at the national level, Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy and Matteo Salvini's League shared common criticism of the Conte II government but experienced diverging trajectories in terms of popularity. These changes can be partly attributed to the different agency of their leaderships. Overall and collectively considered, the Italian populist radical right broke even during the first year of COVID-19, but the crisis exposed the first cracks in Salvini's leadership.

Monograph - 2022

Labour conflicts in the digital age

Donatella della Porta, Riccardo Emilio Chesta, Lorenzo Cini
From Deliveroo to Amazon, digital platforms have drastically transformed the way we work. But how are these transformations being received and challenged by workers? This book provides a radical interpretation of the changing nature of worker movements in the digital age, developing an invaluable approach that combines social movement studies and industrial relations. Using case studies taken from Europe and North America, it offers a comparative perspective on the mobilizing trajectories of different platform workers and their distinct organizational forms and action repertoires.

Monograph - 2021

Migrant Protest. Interactive Dynamics in Precarious Mobilizations

Elias Steinhilper
This book explores the interactions and spaces shaping the emergence, trajectory, and fragmentation of migrant protest in unfavorable contexts of marginalization.