Social Inquiry

Social Inquiry

Networks of Activism

At the University of Technology Sydney, Elizabeth Humphrys researches the impact of 9/11 on the alter-globalisation movement. "In Australia," she observes, the anti-globalisation movement "is quite fluid and diverse. Because there has been no research indicating what the borders of the movement are," she found that Tinderbox was a powerful way to visualize the structure and also to invite other scholars and activists to comment on her observations..

"The colour option," she found, "meant I could colour-code individuals I wanted to interview, and because I was limited to about 17 informants I could then juggle these around on paper to ensure I was getting a cross section of people involved. This was so handy because things changed all the time. And then when an interview was done they were coded blue so I could see where I was."

A frequent concern of modern scholars is ensuring that the integrity of references is maintained that notes and quotations dont become separated from their sources. Tinderbox links and containers help make sure that related objects stay connected, and Tinderbox's fast search and autonomous agents help scholars discover new connections.

Avoiding premature commitment to a preconceived structure was a key issue for Humphrys. "The big thing with this movement is that it is very recent and it exists in peoples heads - there is no membership list or umbrella body - and some bits are so decentralised they might exist only for a few months. But these also have played an important role and need to be recorded."

I never planned to use Tinderbox this way: it sort of caught me by surprise. The best thing is really a tree in two dimensions - a tree in the one view and then notes behind the view.

Networks of Scholarship

Talal Al-Azem's research explores networks of scholars who studied and taught in Damascus and Cairo in the 12-14th centuries. He built a Tinderbox notebook with attributes suitable for recording what we know about each medieval academician: when they lived, what books they wrote or commented upon, whom they taught.

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Al-Azem explains that he created "student-of" links by hand, and then let Tinderbox rules and action use these links to complete the metadata for each instructor. Tinderbox makes it easy to incorporate new discoveries and to express unexpectedly complex relationships. At the same time, Tinderbox's flexible export makes sharing data with other tools remarkably straightforward.

Also of interest: Understanding What People Say: Qualitative Analysis and The Immigrant Experience

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