I study subnational conflict, with a focus on the dynamics of mass protest. My research takes advantage of new types of data 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 a 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 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 though purple and gold is a beautiful combination though.) On the court, I am closer to Alex Caruso, if he couldn’t shoot or drive.
– Zachary C. Steinert-Threlkeld
Professor Steinert-Threlkeld studies protest dynamics using computational techniques and network analysis. He has studied protests around the world, including Arab Spring, protests in East Asia, and South America. He has shown that people are more motivated to protest when they learn about it from people near them in their social network and that support for Russian intervention was lower amongst Ukrainians than is commonly believed. Ongoing work analyzes the effect of taxing social media and how protester and state violence affects subsequent protest trends.