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



The Far-right and conspiraciy theories from Covid to the European elections

Donatella Della Porta has researched on “Regressive movements in time of emergency” using the case of protests against anti contagion measures. Protesters pictured themselves as an abused minority fighting against some hidden and organized power. We asked Della Porta to explain why and how conspiracy theories and this kind of posturing is keen to fall for the political offer of rightwing parties.


Social movements, Coronavirus and the right to healthcare

The 2020 pandemic has brought renewed focus on public healthcare and many mobilizations both on healthcare systems and vaccine patents. What are the peculiarities of right to healthcare movements? A talk with Cosmos Lab member Stella Christou


Far right movements and the European elections

Intersections and differences among far right politica Europan parties and movments, transatlantic exchanges, the role of mobilizations at the grassroots level. An interview with political scientist Andrea Pirro


An open letter on freedom of expression and protest on Palestine by the European social movement studies community

As social movement scholars we express strong concerns about the growing trend to restrict the right of expression, critique, and protest in several countries in Europe. Signed by research centres, journals and standing groups.


CFP: Feminism as a method - Feminist Epistemologies, Methodologies and Methods in Social Sciences

International Conference 14-15 November 2024 Anastasia Barone, Giada Bonu Rosenkranz and Donatella della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore)


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


Journal Article - 2023

Resisting right-wing populism in power: a comparative analysis of the Facebook activities of social movements in Italy and the UK

Niccolò Pennucci
This paper aims to present a comparative study of the civil society reaction to right-wing populism in power through social media, by looking at cases in Italy and the United Kingdom.

Journal Article - 2023

Emotions in Action: the Role of Emotions in Refugee Solidarity Activism

Chiara Milan
This article investigates the different types of emotions that result from participation in refugee solidarity activism, investigating how they change over time and to what extent they explain why individuals remain involved in action in spite of unfavorable circumstances.

Journal Article - 2023

‘Love is over, this is going to be Turkey!’: cathartic resonance between the June 2013 protests in Turkey and Brazil

Batuhan Eren
This study addresses the question of why and how a protest can inspire individuals in distant countries. Taking the June 2013 protests in Turkey and Brazil as cases, it investigates the reasons why the Turkish protests were framed as one of the inspirational benchmarks by some Brazilian protesters.

Journal Article - 2023

Mutual aid and solidarity politics in times of emergency: direct social action and temporality in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic

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

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 - 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 - 2021

Learning from Democratic Practices: New Perspectives in Institutional Design

Andrea Felicetti
Drawing from literature on democratic practices in social movements and democratic innovations, the article illustrates three ways to advance institutional design in the wake of the systemic turn.

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.

Journal Article - 2021

Populism between voting and non-electoral participation

Andrea Pirro & Martín Portos
The article focuses on a neglected aspect of populist mobilisation, i.e. non-electoral participation (NEP), and elaborates on the extent to which populist party voters engage politically outside the polling station. While challenging common understandings of populism as inherently distrustful and apathetic, and protest as an exclusive practice of the left, the study critically places NEP at the heart of populism in general, and populist right politics in particular.