Visualizing right-wing populism in Europe

This week in Amsterdam we attended a one-week workshop on the topic of online mapping of the right-wing movements in Europe.

Analytical undertaking
The mapping commences with the collection of the URLs of populist right-wing and right-wing extremist websites in the following countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Greece. The lists of websites are made following a particular method, referred to as the ‘associative query-snowballing technique.’ Queries are formulated and made in the local domain Googles (google.dk, google.se, etc.), largely in this style: [populist right parties] and [right-wing extremist groups]. When the names of parties and/or groups are found, they are entered as lists (each in quotation marks) into the engine. This process is repeated, until no new groups are found. Once the web list is finished, it is compared with expert lists. To find expert lists, queries are made in Google Scholar, first in the home language, and subsequently in Google Scholar in English. The queries are similar to those that were entered into local domain Googles, through the web list-building technique. Any new group on expert lists is searched online, and if they have a web presence, they are added. Thus the expert lists add to the web lists. Each of these lists of right-wing groups are described, in terms of whether they are on the ballot or on the fringe, and their organizational (and network) form, e.g., centralized, local chapter or franchise model, cell-like structure, isolated nodes, lonely bloggers, etc.

The URLs of the populist right, the extreme right and the populist and extreme right together are crawled. Co-link analysis is performed (with privileged starting points), whereby those websites which receive at least one link are retained in the network. Each of the networks is visualized as a cluster graph (according to measures of inlink centrality), and the findings are described. First, are there other (heretofore) undiscovered groups found through the link analysis? Second, where are the sites registered and hosted? Is the network more local, national, regional or international? Third, what types of websites are there, such as home pages, blogs, social media, etc.? Do they have Facebook groups (with how many members) and pages (with how many likes and talk-abouts)? If they use Twitter, do they use it to broadcast (only to their followers), or do they use it as a two-way communications medium? Are the websites fresh and are they particularly active?  Apart from the ‘technical’ characteristics of the websites in the networks, we are interested in the groups’ activities, especially in their outreach, forms of communication as well as recruitment. Do they have radio stations? Is there an active music scene? Where does one go in order to participate in the scene?

Finally, we are also interested in the counter measures, the initiatives that seek to address the rise of the populist right and the activities of the extreme right. While this analysis is less extensive than that of the right itself, we are particularly interested in the ‘match’ between the right’s activities and those of the counter-measures.

Visualizing the process
To visualize the output we followed the logic of the process.

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For each country are held on a horizontal line of a single poster all the main points of the research, from initial queries and lists building, to networks and social media analysis. In this way we tried to emphasize the process by which every “expert” of each country developed its own research, allowing them to discuss about the points of greatest interest simply going through it.

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For networks, we have chosen to work side by side with the ‘”expert” of each country, letting him indicate which aspects of the network to emphasize and what to leave out. Depending on the specific needs, we have chosen to highlight the most relevant cluster or individual nodes through the use of font rather than color, which instead was used to differentiate the domains of individual sites.
The spherical nodes correspond to starting points, while square ones to new links discovered with the issue crawler. Different letters denote nodes of different reference categories (political party, organization, web-shop, blog, etc.).

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We visualized the presence of each party or organization in the social media sphere (twitter, facebook, youtube), giving more importance to the quality of their use of it through the use of icons in a descriptive summary for each group. (what kind of facebook page? is it a single group or there are many regional dedicated pages? and what kind of twitter channel do they use?)

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Generally, it has given space to add descriptions and additional notes directly on the poster, which could be helpful to the expert in each country discussing about the phenomenon of right-wing populist and extremist groups in Europe.

Comments

  1. 1. Learning about digital methods in Amsterdam « Bente Kalsnes' blog Says:

    [...] One of the cases we will hear about is a data sprint related to counter-Jihadists, the other case is a method for issue mapping, specifically about how to visualize right wing extremism in Europe. [...]

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