Visual Data Analysis

Institution: see Organisers & Supporters

Programme of study: International Research Workshop

Lecturer: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Anne Nassauer (Free-University Berlin)

Date: Thursday, 14/09/17 (09.30 – 18.00 h)

Max. number of participants: 20

Credit Points: 5 CP for participating in the whole IRWS

Language of instruction: English


Since the early 2000s, the proliferation of cameras, whether in mobile phones or CCTV, body cameras, or drones, has led to a tremendous increase in visual recordings of human behaviour. More and more of such data is uploaded online, for instance on sharing platforms such as YouTube or LiveLeaks. This vast pool of data enables new approaches analysing a variety of social phenomena. The application is both qualitative and quantitative and ranges widely; from sociology to psychology; criminology to education and beyond.

The goal of this workshop is to introduce the opportunities that these technological advancements provide and enable participants to make use of these exponentially growing, easily accessible data pools to studying social phenomena.

The first part of this workshop (2 hrs) will provide an overview of approaches analysing visual data. We will examine qualitative approaches of studying visuals and their context (visual studies), as well as a variety of novel approaches to visual data, that focus on quantitative and qualitative analysis of social phenomena and human behaviour caught on tape (visual data analysis).

A second part (2 hrs) will discuss the analytic potential of novel visual data types. We will discuss opportunities and challenges that arise when wanting to study recordings of phenomena or behaviour “as it happened.” We will discuss: How can participants use the increasing amount of behaviour – captured by cell phones, drones, or police body cameras – as a reliable and valid data source in their PhD project? What can be studied using these data and which analytic procedures are useful to study them?

A third part of the workshop (2 hrs) will discuss the participants’ PhD projects in light of these opportunities. We will take a hands-on approach and go through the process of visual data collection and visual data analysis step by step by using examples. Students can either bring recordings that they want to use as an (additional) data source for their PhD, or we will examine other practical examples.

Requirement of students: None.

Recommended literature and pre-readings:

  • Harper, Douglas. 1988. “Visual Sociology: Expanding Sociological Vision.” The American Sociologist 19(1):54–70.
  • Nassauer, Anne and Nicolas Legewie. Under Review. “Visual Data Analysis: Towards a Methodological Framework for a Novel Trend in Studying Behavior.”

Optional readings:

  • Klusemann, Stefan. 2009. “Atrocities and Confrontational Tension.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 3(42):1–10.
  • Levine, Mark, Paul J. Taylor, and Rachel Best. 2011. “Third Parties, Violence, and Conflict Resolution: The Role of Group Size and Collective Action in the Micro-regulation of Violence.” Psychological Science 22(3):406–12.

You have to register for the 11th International Research Workshop to participate in this course.