Social Science’s New Occupation

According to Jennifer Schuessler reporting in the New York Times, the Occupy movement has inspired numerous research projects in the social sciences. (No surprise to readers of Possible Futures.) As a result, protesters at today’s General Strike may encounter not just activists handing out political pamphlets, but also researchers handing out surveys:

Academics across the country have embraced the movement since it emerged in September, organizing classes, publishing reams of commentary and issuing calls to “occupy” not just Wall Street but also sociology, anthropology, history, philosophy or the entire “academic vampire squid” itself, as a poster for a session at the recent annual meeting of the International Studies Association put it.

A smaller number have also been turning to a more difficult task: turning a sprawling movement into hard — and publishable — data.

The article cites numerous academics involved in research on the Occupy movement, including the criminologist Edward Maguire, the anthropologist Jeffrey Juris, and five sociologists working on separate projects: Alex Vitale, Héctor Cordero-Guzmán, Ruth Milkman, Todd Gitlin, and Jesse Klein. These academics, all affiliated with American universities, address a range of different issues around the movement in their research projects, and in the case of Maguire, seek to provide a basis for “recommendations to police departments.” Other researchers’ relationships to the movement are more ambiguous. Juris claims that every researcher studying the movement he knows “is an activist of some sort.”

In addition, the article calls attention to the work done by Occupy Research, particularly in the course of hackathons that mine existing data from social-networking sites and other sources. The activist-scholars involved in this work are not all academically affiliated.

Read the full article here.

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