We propose a multi-scaling-based methodology and a visual intelligence platform that represents an important step change in how we might observe and analyze radical social movements. Rather than placing external forms of analysis that color and tautologically define what is "radical" from an external perspective, we propose a more ontologically oriented approach. We seek to generate a methodology to allow the orientations of these movements to define themselves via their own discourse within their own universe and understanding of actions, rather than an external and potentially poorly calibrated analysis of what constitutes radicalism. Without this kind of fundamental reorientation to research of religiously or politically inspired social movements, we get poor, assumption-based analysis that (incorrectly) predicts and champions ill-defined relationships between certain religious or political sects and violence, for example. Our reoriented approach enables analysts to fundamentally reexamine relationships to take nuance and context into account. Current technology for monitoring social media tracks key word matching for names of known groups, individuals, and places. However, these tools cannot find the proverbial needles in a haystack corresponding to individuals with radical or extremist ideas. Nor can these technologies connect the dots to identify radicals' relationships and the sociocultural, political, and economic drivers underlying these ties. Raw data in multiple modalities (e.g., tweets, blogs, and newswires) gush like uncapped oil wells, but existing technologies fail to provide comprehensive tools for making sense of the data and for seeing the bigger picture. LookingGlass is designed for real-time contextual analysis of complex sociopolitical situations that are rife with volatility and uncertainty. The tool can rapidly recognize radical hotspots of networks, narratives, and activities, as well as their sociocultural, economic, and political drivers. Also, highly trained area experts and local cultural knowledge inform the conclusions of LookingGlass. Defining the Problem One of the fundamental issues with interpretative and qualitative data collection and analysis has been researchers' bias while conducting the research. Goertz (2006) makes the crucial point that, in their enthusiasm for reifying complex sociological or political concepts, theorists and empiricists often focus too much on what a concept is, rather than on identifying the concept on a continuum, in order to assess when a concept is present versus when it is absent (see also Goertz & Mahoney, 2005). In the social sciences, scaling is the process of measuring and ordering actors (subjects) with respect to quantitative attributes or traits (items).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIlluminating Dark Networks
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781316212639
ISBN (Print)9781107102699
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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