I study subnational conflict, with a focus on protest and repression. My research takes advantage of geolocated tweets, simulations, location data, and images to understand individual-level behavior at a daily level; these data can illuminate dynamics of mobilization, elite behavior, and state repression, among others. I am currently an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of California – Los Angeles’ Luskin School of Public Affairs.
My earliest research focuses on the Arab Spring. In it, I develop a theory of protest tactics that explains how activists substitute between online media and offline activity; use millions of tweets to show that protest mobilization can occur spontaneously, without organized leadership; and show how to harness new data sources to understand emergent conflict narratives, changes in social network structure, and identify transnational social networks.
Since, I have studied protests on every continent. I have also expanded from using natural language processing, geospatial, and network analysis: my newest work uses computer vision to push forward the study of political behavior broadly defined. Humans are visual communicators, and there is so much interesting visual data that social scientists are just now realizing they can take advantage of.
I am from Connecticut, with time spent in Texas, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and San Diego, where I spent more time living than anywhere else. Traveling, the scenery of Southern California, good coffee, good books with good coffee, and exercising provide me pleasure. I have no shame having been a fan of the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and, now, the Los Angeles Lakers solely because of LeBron James. (I have always thought purple and gold is a beautiful combination though.) On the court, I am closer to Alex Caruso, if he couldn’t shoot or drive, or Russell Westbrook, if he was a little slower.
– Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld
Professor Steinert-Threlkeld studies protest dynamics using natural language processing, computer vision, and large-scale simulations. He has studied protests around the world, including the Arab Spring, East Asia, and the Americas. His newest work looks at evasion of the Great Firewall in China during COVID-19, signalling on social media during the Syrian civil war, how state violence can make protests smaller or larger, and the effect of social media taxation. His work has been published in the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and World Development and received coverage from The Economist, The New York Times, and WIRED.