Social Media Data and the Dynamics of Thai Protests
Traditional techniques used to study political engagement—interviews, ethnographic research, surveys—rely on collection of data at a single or a few points in time and/or from a small sample of political actors. They lead to a tendency in the literature to focus on “snapshots” of political engagement (as in the analysis of a single survey) or draw from a very limited set of sources (as in most small group ethnographic work and interviewing). Studying political engagement through analysis of social media data allows scholars to better understand the political engagement of millions of people by examining individuals’ views on politics in their own voices. While social media analysis has important limitations, it provides the opportunity to see detailed “video” of political engagement over time that provides an important complement to traditional methods. We illustrate this point by drawing on social media data analysis of the protests and election in Thailand from October 2013 through February 2014.