When: June 11-16, 2018
Where: Split and Vis, Croatia
Registration costs: TBD

  • Food, lodging, air travel, and transportation are not included in tuition
  • Scholarships available for students from host universities

Collaborating Institutions:

  • University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science
  • Mississippi State University – Social Science Research Center and Department of Sociology
  • George Mason University
  • University of Split
  • University of Applied Sciences VERN’, Zagreb

Check back for the full program soon.

Split, Croatia

The phenomenon of digital connectivity is increasingly transforming the way humans interact and deal with problems of collective action. Such a paradigmatic change is expanding the frontiers of research in terms of theories, methods and analysis. Considering this context, faculty from Mississippi State University, George Mason University, the University of Zagreb, the University of Split and the University of Applied Sciences VERN’ at Zagreb will lead a week-long Seminar on Big Data and Social Sciences. The Seminar will take place at the University of Split in Split, Croatia, and at the International University center VERN’ on the island of Vis.

The seminar consists of a series of sessions that will be organized in Split in which participants will engage with lecturers to learn and discuss research on big data in social sciences, while on the island of Vis will be organized a series of workshops on big data and innovative methods. Participants will have the opportunity to gather knowledge from pertinent case study and learn updated methodologies for data analysis.

This seminar is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the afore mentioned institutions. We expect this effort to continue and further expand by creating a larger network of institutions interested in participating in the ongoing conversation about the big data research in social sciences, from both the practitioner and researcher standpoint. Participation in the seminar will benefit both students and researchers by expanding their knowledge about the realm of both practical and theoretical approaches to utilization of socially derived digital data for overcoming collective action dilemmas.

This is a photo of the universities that will lead the Seminars on Big Data and Social Sciences.

For more information, please email: lhossfeld@soc.msstate.edu

For an information package about Split, Croatia, click here.

Panel Descriptions

PANEL 1 – Big Data and Social Media Research
Led by: Dr. Viktorija Car
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science, Croatia
e-mail: viktorija.car@gmail.com

Social media has enabled the shift from one-to-many to many-to-many communication, which provides support for the heterogeneity of communicational content and activities. However, beside bringing the advent of more multidirectional forms of participation, social media has become repositories of personal big data of billions of users.

There is an ongoing discussion on the case of Cambridge Analytica – the data analytics company which, without permission, used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles, and based on their psychological profiles it built a system to target US voters with personalized political advertisements. This case really shakes the idea on social media as democratic media which just connect people. Henry Jenkins argues that convergence culture, based on the new media technology, helps consumers envision a liberated public sphere, free of network controls, in a decentralized media environment. Sometimes corporate and grassroots efforts reinforce each other, creating closer, more rewarding relations between media producers and consumers, sometimes these two forces are at war (Jenkins, 2006). The question to argue is if the social media endanger democratic political culture.

It was back in 2010 when Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, said that privacy was no longer a “social norm.” He said: “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people.” Eight years later it became clear that people should not feel fully comfortable sharing personal information, even likes, because only by analyzing our likes it is easy to make our personal political profile. Public reaction on this scandal with Cambridge Analytica was that many companies and persons decided to close their Facebook profiles.

For this panel we invite papers on big data research on communication over social media.

1. Barnett, E. 2010. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says privacy is no longer a ‘social norm’. The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/6966628/Facebooks-Mark-Zuckerberg-says-privacy-is-no-longer-a-social-norm.html (accessed January 15, 2018).
2. Jenkins, H. 2006. Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York and London: New York University Press.

PANEL 2 – George Mason University Panel
Led by: Dr. Tonya Neaves
George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government, USA
e-mail: tneaves@gmail.com

Societal risks to threats are ever increasing; today’s world is more dangerous, complicated, and immediate than ever before. Given the tectonic shifts in the nation’s sociopolitical climate, the nexus between security and sociocultural respect presents a variety of policy and administrative challenges. It is the essential role of government to implement policies that effectively manage events of significance and their associated consequences. Understanding risks associated with societal problems is the basis for analyzing risk/vulnerabilities and deterring/mitigating unwanted actions/events. Still, the magnitude and character of threats are not easily calculated. There is a recurring problem in crisis planning – there are long-standing deficiencies in its strategic and operational approaches. Co-operation in times of threats should, therefore, be recognized as important and viewed as a relevant means to ideological bridge building that aims to strengthen cohesion and confidence so that a more effective and integrated approach to emergency operations and communal resiliency can be developed. To this end, local authorities – that is, first responders – are becoming the force multipliers for state and federal officials in addressing new threats. An innovative framework for instituting a public safety/emergency management platform of research, training, and education should be developed that integrates law enforcement, fire services, and medical personnel rooted in public administration to more effectively respond to and prevent against an evolving scenario of atypical emergencies and complex attacks.

1. Boin, A., and A. McConnell, 2007, “Preparing for critical infrastructure breakdowns: the limits of crisis management and the need for resilience,” Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 15(1): 50-59.
2. Drabek, T., 2006, “Social problems perspective, disaster research and emergency management: Intellectual contexts, theoretical extensions, and policy implications,” American Sociological Association Annual Meeting E. L. Quarantelli Theory Award Lecture.
3. Trim, P., 2004, “An integrated approach to disaster management and planning,” Disaster Prevention and Management, 13(3): 218-225.

PANEL 3 – Big Data, Politics and Society
Led by: Dr. Đana Luša
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science, Croatia

Big data as the capacity to process unprecedented amount of information is influencing many different fields. The social sciences are among the most affected. One can for example analyze millions of calls or tweets that provide insights into social structures, or statements issued by different politicians in the long period of time and discover correlations between them. Big data is also influencing the way some government act internationally by generating millions of bits of information about the location of military facilities or equipment. Big data may even allow us to predict major political events with greater accuracy or to interpret political communication in way that is more efficient. It has induced a hyper-networked world society in which is easier than ever before to engage in common political causes irrespective of national boundaries. Everything is becoming data-driven. However, the use of big data also generates a lot of ethical concerns, serious limitations and obstacles such as its accessibility and interpretation; skill and awareness to make the best use of big data and keeping the data secure. Big data impacting society and politics in multifold ways, bringing new topics and providing new tools to analyze different societal and political challenges will be discussed at the panel.

In this panel we would like to explore such connections and welcome papers on the following topics:

  • Data driven geopolitics and geo-economics
  • Big data and diplomacy
  • Big data and political communication
  • Big data and media
  • Big data and society
  • Big data and conflict management
  • Big data and migrations

1. Anderson, J., Rainie,L. 2012. The Future of Big Data. Pew Research Centre. http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/07/20/the-future-of-big-data/.
2. Stuenkel, O. 2016. Big Data: What Does It Mean for International Relations? Post-western World. http://www.postwesternworld.com/2016/03/06/mean-international-relations/.
3. Zwitter, A. 2016. The Impact of Big Dana on International Affairs. Clingedael Spectator. https://spectator.clingendael.org/en/publication/impact-big-data-international-affairs.

Big Data Methods Workshops
Handling Big Data – Innovative Approaches in Social Sciences

(1) Introduction
Led by: Dr. Viktorija Car
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science, Croatia

In these days, Internet is overwhelmed with user-generated content. Some of the data that researchers before had to collect on the field is now available online. User opinions are posted in different forms on the websites and social networking sites. They provide useful information about attitudes that user have towards various issues. This set of workshops is aiming to provide ideas for conceptualization of big data and developing innovative research designs in social sciences. Each workshop will display software tools that can enable easier management and interpretation of big data. Students will learn how to implement these tools on selected examples and interpret the data. In the introduction part of the workshop we will present several different open access tools (e.g. Google Trends and Google Correlate) for big data analysis and better keyword search, and we will elaborate how these results can be useful in the phase of setting a research.

(2) Media and public agenda analysis using VoxPopuli tool
Led by: Duje Bonacci and Dr. Jelena Jurišić
University of Zagreb, Centre for Croatian Studies

VoxPopuli is a software system/tool which enables automatic and systematic monitoring and comparison of salience of news stories that appear on daily news web portals. This type of advanced and innovative public opinion analysis is made possible through quantification of absolute and relative salience of news articles published on daily news web portals. Obtained numerical values for the two types of salience enable direct comparison of audience impact of different news articles in specified time period. Absolute salience of a news article in a specified time period is determined as the total number of distinct readers who commented on the story in that period. Hence, articles that appear on web portals with larger audiences will in general be (absolutely) more salient as there are more potential commentators to comment on them. On the other hand, relative salience of a particular article during a particular time period is calculated as the quotient of a number of distinct readers who commented on that particular story and the number of all readers who in the same period commented on any news story published on the same news portal. As such relative salience will always be a number between 0 and 1, irrespective of the popularity of particular news portal, the (relative) salience of news stories on different news portals can be compared.

In this workshop we shall present several practical examples of analyses conducted using the data harvested by VoxPopuli harvester, such as automatized topical classification of news items and mid and long term monitoring of salience of particular key terms on media and public agenda.

(3) NVivo workshop – Qualitative Data Analysis: Strategies, Techniques and Tools
Led by: Dr. Anka Kekez Koštro
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science

In a quest for rich empirical insights meant to enable answers to research questions, social science researchers are often faced with a problem or a task of processing big amount of qualitative information that are located in documents, transcripts from interviews or focus groups, pictures, notes from observations and other data sources that emerge from qualitative methods of data collection. In small N research designs this task can be effectively fulfilled with the qualitative data analyses that is done through three congruent flows of activity: data reduction, data display and patterns seeking/verification. While the data reduction refers to process of making qualitative data manageable through segmenting and coding of data encompassed by written-up field notes or transcripts, data display through matrices, graphs, charts or networks presents an important avenue to valid drawing and verification of conclusions. This workshop will provide participants with an overview of a key concepts, strategies and techniques related to each of these three types of activity. In order to foster the strategic understanding and development of skills for the application of qualitative data analysis in own research, the presentation of strategies and techniques will be followed with guided exercises in data coding and complemented with the demonstration of coding process in the NVivo software package for computer- assisted qualitative data analysis.

(4) Sentiment analysis workshop
Led by: Dr. Hrvoje Jakopović
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science

Further, the workshop will focus on user-generated content and examine easy-to-use tools for sentiment analysis. Sentiment analysis is also known as opinion mining procedure which allows fast insights into a different sized and numerous textual content. The analysis aims to determine polarities of negative and positive opinions but also allows discovering certain emotions such as happiness and sadness. We will focus on sentiment analysis tools (SentiStrength and Twitter Sentiment Visualization) that can be implemented in big data research on emotions and sentiment in communication on Twitter.

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