Our research has generated important insights

Over the past three years, my research project on the connection between online speech and offline harm has achieved major milestones. We have been able to legally and ethically acquire millions of social media posts from India for statistical analysis and have conducted large-scale surveys. I will describe our results in more detail once the corresponding papers have passed peer review.

The most important insight is this: In sufficiently divided and politicized environments, even seemingly harmless online speech can provoke conflict-related emotions such as anger and fear, and affect overall sentiments towards outgroups. Additionally, such seemingly harmless online speech is also a leading indicator of physical attacks. This situation makes it very difficult to devise effective policy responses.

Living with such negative effects of social media technologies is problematic, but censorship of legally protected and non-violent speech carries its own set of risks and disadvantages, especially in Democracies. A much more nuanced and open debate will be needed to find meaningful solutions in this area.

Starting a new research project!

I’ll be happily leading a project funded by the Norwegian Research Council on the connection between online speech and real world harm for the next three years. We’ll mainly be looking at communal violence and combine surveys and event data analysis. We’ll add more info to the project page over time.

Still kicking

High time for and update! It’s been a busy few years and this website has fallen by the wayside. Professionally, it’s been mostly good, with new publications, an editorial job at JPR, and great new collaborations. Personally, it’s been also good, but very busy (relocation, immigration, procreation, isolation (pandemic-induced)). Due to circumstances, I have not been able to fly anymore, but I’ll keep the pictures around here for posterity. I have recently started to pay me attention to Twitter (@BastiSchutte) and I’ll try to update content here every now and then. Thanks for stopping by!

2018 News

This last year was a bit crazy. I finished up my job in Berlin in the spring and while teaching there was a lot of fun, the commute between Konstanz and Berlin was stressful at times. I am very grateful to Humboldt University for the great opportunity. Especially Heike Klüver was very supportive and deserves special thanks. In the fall, I accepted a position as a Senior Researcher at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. This is nothing short of a dream come true and PRIO has been extremely welcoming. I am looking forward to future collaborations with my amazing new colleagues. Finally, the paper that Daniel Karell and I published won the Nils Petter Gleditsch JPR Article of the Year Award against stiff competition. I am very honored by this recognition.

2017 News

Thanks to the great collaboration with Constantin Ruhe, the DSF project has been brought to a successful conclusion. We conducted large-scale reimbursed surveys to better understand individual-level sentiments in episodes of political violence. Moreover, several accepted publications have appeared in print this year (see Publications). To build up some solid teaching experience, I’m currently on a temporary full professorship (Vertretungsprofessur) for International Politics at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Humboldt University is a great place to be and I’m very excited for this opportunity.

2016 News

In June, the German Foundation of Peace Research (DSF) decided to fund my research project on group hostilities in conflict zones. I’ll be able to use the technology developed in collaboration with Roos van der Haer and Niranjan Sahoo to run electronic surveys (with mobile cash reimbursements) in India and Kenya. In addition, Constantin Ruhe has joined the project and we’re currently finalizing the research plan. Finally, I scored a 5-year position at the Zukunftskolleg which entails a lot more time to do research and build a teaching portfolio. I am very grateful to the DSF, the Zukunftskolleg, and my collaborators.

New survey system

Over the past few months, I’ve developed a computer system for reimbursed mobile surveys (RMS). Interviews are conducted via SMS and respondents are paid through the M-Pesa mobile cash system. In collaboration with Roos van der Haer and Niranjan Sahoo, I’ve put together a working paper describing the technology and we’ve manged to deploy the system to India. Two more deployments are underway in Afghanistan and Kenya. The focus so far has been on the technology, but great new substantive research is on the horizon for the next conference season! I’ve also published some papers: The second dissertation paper has appeared in “Conflict Management and Peace Science” and collaborative work with Andrew Linke and Halvard Buhaug was published in the “International Studies Review”. The conflict zone prediction (see below) has been conditionally accepted in “Political Science Research and Methods”.

Conflict zone prediction

I wrote a new paper on predicting conflict zones in civil wars. In a nutshell, the basic assumption here is that the determinants of violence in civil wars are often local (as the literature tells us). I use conflict events from the UCDP GED dataset and geographic covariates of violence to fit Point Process Models to predict the spatial distribution of violence in ten civil conflicts. In a cross-validation test, the models fitted to nine countries predict the remaining country rather well. Check out the extrapolations for Africa and the Greater Middle East if you have Google Earth installed here or take a quick glance at this poster for the general idea.

Methods paper in Political Geography

In collaboration with Karsten Donnay, I’ve put together a method for analyzing reactive patterns in spatial event data. The corresponding paper and the R package are now available online. We demonstrated the efficiency of the method in Monte Carlo simulations and its merit in an analysis of civilian reactions to insurgent violence in Iraq. I hope the software will help uncover conflict dynamics in irregular wars and maybe even suitable interventions to stop local cycles of violence.