SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

How Useful is Big Data in Understanding Digital Activism?: Diverse Approaches Using Cross-National Cases

Yuan Hsiao

Date: 8 July 2020Time: 3:30 PM

Finishes: 8 July 2020Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Summer School

As part of the 2020 SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies Summer School, we kindly ask that you register to attend.

This event will be held online through Blackboard Collaborate.

*Please be aware that all Summer School event times follow British Summer Time (BST)


The use of digital media, such as Facebook or Twitter, has been prevalent in recent social movements broadly termed as “digital activism.” The impact of digital media on movements spans multiple areas, such as the psychological incentives of participants, organizational structure of movements, perception of movement legitimacy, or social network relationships between media users.

Alongside the rise of digital activism is the availability of the so-called “Big Data” which includes extensive information on the digital footprints of media users. Nonetheless, the looming question is how useful such digital data is to understand the multi-faceted impact of digital media on movements. Using cases from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States, I discuss research areas that are suitable/unsuitable for the use of digital data. I then demonstrate methods that can investigate the impact of digital media, with or without the use of digital data. In particular, different sources of data should be combined with innovative methods such as social network analysis, agent-based simulations, or structural equation modeling. Examples include how interview data depict the process by which digital media shape leadership structures of the Wild Strawberry Movement in Taiwan, how network analyses examine the mobilization conditions of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, or how topic analysis help understand why solidarity is fostered in the Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Bill movement.


Hsiao Yuan Profile

Yuan Hsiao is a doctoral candidate in Sociology and a Master’s student in Statistics at the University of Washington. He is also currently a statistical and computational consultant at the Center for Social Science Computation and Research at the University of Washington. He is interested in the areas of social networks, computational social science, digital media, collective action, and quantitative methods. His major work explores the intersection of social media, social networks, and social movements, and has been published or forthcoming in American Sociological Review, Social Forces, Political Communication, Social Networks, New Media & Society and the Routledge Research on Taiwan Series. He also serves as a statistician that applies quantitative methods in different fields, and the collaborations have been published in PLoS One and International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

The SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies would like to express our thanks for the liaison of Professor Chiu Kuei-fen (National Chung Hsing University) and collaboration with the International Consortium of Global Taiwan Studies for this event.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies & The International Consortium of Global Taiwan Studies

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