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Ways of measuring agency: an application of quantitative narrative analysis to Lynchings in Georgia (1875-1930)

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denise battaglia

on 15 May 2014

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Transcript of Ways of measuring agency: an application of quantitative narrative analysis to Lynchings in Georgia (1875-1930)

...in the middle...
Methodological individualism
Ways of Measuring Agency: an Application of Quantitative Narrative Analysis to Lynchings in Georgia (1875-1930)
Can QNA provide quantitative
measures of agency?
Story grammar (S-V-O)
Methodological question: how to measure agency?
Definition of agency
...and QNA?
by Roberto Franzosi, Gianluca De Fazio and Stefania Vicari.
Is professor of Sociology and Linguistics at Departement of Sociology at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia, Usa).

His research interests:
study of social protest and violence
issues of language and measurement of text and narrative, semantics, semiotics, rhetoric, mass media.

Articles anf books published:

"From Words to Number: Narrative, Data, and Social Science" (Cambridge University Press 2005), Content Analysis (Sage 2008), and Quantitative Narrative Analysis (Sage 2009).

Using his approach to narrative, Franzosi carried out two projects on the rise of Italian fascism (1919-22) and lynchings in Georgia (1875-1930) using newspapers as sources of data.

Franzosi has developed a software, PC-ACE (Program for Computer-Assisted Coding of Events) for quantifying narrative information.
Our presentation:
Introduction about the author of the essay
email address: denisebattagliasky@gmail.com; e.cristofoletti@yahoo.it
Question time
...but what does mean QNA and agency?
Two theoretical perspectives:
Methodological individualism

"Man make their own history, but [...] not [...] as they please [...]
under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances
directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past" (Marx, 1970:96)
- "the elementary unit of social life is the individual human action" (Elster
- Emphasizing the autonomy and rationality
of the individual to explain social actions
and outcomes (Coleman 1990)
"Human agency and structure, far from being opposed, presuppose each other’’ (Sewell 1992:4)
Agency has two components:
1)‘‘what the person is free to do and achieve in pursuit
of whatever goals or values he or she regards as
important’’ (Sen 1985:203);
2) and what the person actually does.

What the person does involve two components:
A) the action proper;
B) capacity to give meaning to this action.

Previous attempt:
relational sociologist
game theory
Some ways to measuring agency is used by historians but they rarely translates in quantifiable measures; quantitative methods are instead a domain of social scientist that are too often silent about agency
It is the way of measuring agency proposed by Franzosi
How does it works?
QNA is based on the link between
Narrative text can be defined as a sequence of actions, linked together through both
links and with a
semantic coherence
Therefore, since the narrative is about action, Franzosi argues that
is closely related to
. It is by exploring that link (between agency and narrative) that we propose a way to
the concept of agency through a set of detailed procedures
A story can be conceived as a set of distinct narrative units: Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) and modifiers (this structure is called
semantic triplet

This unit function as a story grammar:the set of rules that provides the cathegories into wich the various element of a story fall. story grammar is the key parsing tool employed to extract information on Who, What,
, Why, and
,—the 5 Ws of journalism + H, How—from narrative texts.
An empirical example of QNA application: Lyncings in Georgia (1875-1930)
212 different newspapers
1332 articles
7070 semantic triplet
340 events
388 victims

frequency tab
network analysis
time plot
N.b.: the analysis are not meant to exhaust the range of statistical techniques we can apply to QNA data, which can vary from simple exploratory data analysis (EDA) to traditional regression, and, notably, to tools based on the narrative underpinnings of the data: namely, sequence analysis, GIS tools, and network analysis (on the range of techniques of analysis for QNA, see Franzosi [2010:107–141]).
Yes, but...
Some doubts:
1) Can we use
as sources of a data for a historical study?
2) Where is the
3) Where is the deep
4) Where is the broader
"Certain structures, in their long life, become the stable elements of an infinity of generations. They encumber history and restrict it, and hence control its flow. Other structures crumble more quickly. But all structures are simultaneously pillars and obstacles. As obstacles, they provide limitations (what mathematicians call envelopes) from which man and his experiences cannot liberate themselves." (Braudel, 1958)
1) Yes, but BE CAREFUL! Use as many different newspapers as possible, because often newspapers hide (consciously or unconsciously) ideologies;
2) Discourse analysis: nominalization / passivization;
3) There is not. We have only the action component of agency. But this is not dues to QNA but to the kind of the sources;
4) There is not. Because narrative text deals with events and stories and not with the broader and structural context. You should refer to variables analysis.

QNA provides a description of events, actors and action deeper and
than an usual quantitative analysis. Moreover it provides, in respect of historical narrative analysis, a events description that can be
. However, in respect of quantitative analysis looses features of the event's broad structural environment (with losses in capability of contextualizing actions). Then, in respect of historical approach, the description of the events is
less in-depth
Therefore, Franzosi claims that an useful research strategy would be using QNA on thousands of documents and then sampling an handful of them to analyzing with an in-depth approach. Moreover, the social scientist should account the broader context of a topic with usual variable analysis. After all none method is by itself enough to deal with phenomena.
Methodological question
Theoretical perspectives
Previous attempts
Franzosi's proposal
How does it works?
Empirical application of QNA: lynchings in Georgia
Data and analysis
Answer to the initial question
Pros and cons of this approach
key words:
narrative text
time and space
Full transcript