explanatory & quantitative

In this episode we are joined by Matthew Hughey. Matthew is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of number books including the White Savior Film: Content, Critics and Consumption, The Wrongs of the Right: Language, Race, and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama, and White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race. Matt joins us to discuss his multi-methods approach to studying film, film criticism, and film consumption.

“I’m a methodologically promiscuous sociologist, so I dabble with different methodologies depending what types of questions I ask.  So for example, If I wanted to know something about the ways that audience members develop, nurture, and deconstruct—in their everyday lived experiences—a film genre such as this, it would call for a kind of ethnographic strategy in which I would need to embed myself with a community of avid film goers.  That type of immersion would be necessary to gain a sociologically informed view of what really figure out the relationship between people lived experiences and their cinematic evaluations.  But since I was interested in a different question—notably, what kinds of demographic and interactive setting influenced how audiences make meaning of just a handful of these films, then interviews and comparisons between focus groups fit the bill for my question.”
– Matthew W. Hughey –

In this episode, we talk with Naomi Sugie on using smartphones to collect data from research participants. Naomi is an Assistant Professor of Law, Criminology & Society at the University of California-Irvine. She shares findings from a study of recently released prisoners as they seek for work in Newark, New Jersey.

“Smartphones are exciting data collection tools. They can collect real time data on peoples’ experiences while they are going about their every day lives. Smartphones have their limitations, but they open up a whole new area of research and the ability to just document peoples experiences. They can expand the realm of empirical investigation for researchers to consider questions and ideas we just weren’t able to think about before, using other methods.”
– Naomi Sugie-


In this episode, we talk with David Knoke, Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota. We discuss the uses and benefits of network analysis, drawing upon his work on terrorist networks.

Though podcasting is at the heart of our project, we also plan to publish our episodes in a book of edited transcripts, making them even more accessible to students and instructors. You can download the edited transcript here. We’d love to hear your feedback on the multi-delivery format, and plan to release even more of these written versions on the site.


GMAC: We are here to talk about network analysis. If you were to introduce this method to an undergraduate class who had never heard of it, how would you describe it?

DK: If you go into a room full of people and ask how many people are “networkers,” they all raise their hand. They all know about Facebook and LinkedIn. So, intuitively, we all have a sense of social networks. We know who Mark Zuckerburg is. But, what most people don’t know is how to treat networking in a more systematic fashion. And this is what network analysis can do.

For instance, you can look at centrality of a network or do a core/periphery analysis. You can take a set of data and sort it by density clusters – high density, clustered folks who interact with each other, and then a periphery of folks who are less connected among themselves. There’s ego-centric networks, there’s complete networks, and there’s network change over time if you have longitudinal data.

There are many different foci. A classic example is a study of clique of women in the Mississippi Delta in the 1930’s. This study looked at a set of women who went to a series of parties. The question was, which women showed up at which parties? There was two modes: a set of folks, and a set of events.

What has most impressed me – and I’ve been doing this for close to 40 years – is how many different disciplines have been picking up network analysis. Anthropology and Sociology were there in the beginning, in the 1940s, but the real takeoff was the 1970s where a whole series of other disciplines begin to use it, such as Political Science. They even have an annual conference on network analysis. The students who take my course also come from a wide variety of disciplines, coming from departments you wouldn’t think of – like Forestry, Conservation Biology, and Rhetoric. It’s a real multi-disciplinary methodology.

We will use your recent research on terrorist networks as a way to understand how this method works. What were your central research questions?

This project is called “Three Modes of Al-Qaeda.” I ask, what are the lines of authority among a set of actors engaged in violent terrorist activities against Western targets?.

Instead of taking the narrative, historical approach of journalists, I formalized the study of Al-Qaeda by taking a network data collection approach. That meant reading a lot of online documents over a nearly twenty year span. I found 25 operations between 1992-2010 that had Western targets.

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In this episode, we talk with Deborah Carr about life course and longitudinal studies. We draw upon her work with the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study to discuss issues of measurement, sampling, and study design.

“For any researcher of life course and aging, longitudinal and prospective data are essential. If we study whole lives, but do it retrospectively – for instance, if we ask someone at age 65 to recall upon their lives – there’s a very powerful phenomenon called retrospective recall bias. People reconstruct their past in such a way that it meshes with their current conditions….your current mood taints all your prior recollections.

So, to really understand aging, you can’t just look at people at one point in time to really know what their lives are like. We need to talk to people at multiple points over time so we can see how they change as they age and to see how their experiences differ based on historical changes in the world. The important point is that you follow individuals over time so that you can really track continuity and change in their lives.”
– Deborah Carr –

In this episode we speak to Francesca Polletta. Francesca is a professor of sociology at the University of California Irvine. She is the author of It Was Like a Fever: Storytelling in Protest and Politics and Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements. Francesca has also authored many peer-review articles on social movements, democracy, and culture. Francesca joins us to discuss coding stories from online forums as a way of studying public deliberation.

“We really struggled with figuring out how to be flexible enough to capture what people what people do when they are actually telling stories, which is not to hue strictly to the formal criteria of formal storytelling. While, at the same time, not losing what makes stories interesting, which is that we know when we hear a story in conversation.”
– Francesca Polletta –