Wednesday, August 15

Occupy movement sparks UCLA Division of Social Sciences to start blog for campus dialogue

From protests to encampments to marches the Occupy movement has garnered strong national attention in recent months.

The movement has also recently been the focus of a broader initiative to increase dialogue between campus departments within the social sciences. Last month, the UCLA Division of Social Sciences created a forum to discuss the Occupy protests.

“As a public university, UCLA has a social responsibility to use what we have learned in our scholarly work to try to make sense of what goes on in the world,” said Alessandro Duranti, dean of social sciences.

The Engaged Social Sciences blog, located on the division’s website, includes written commentary, videos and photo galleries from UCLA faculty, graduate students and individuals from other universities.

“The Occupy movement is an interesting phenomena for social scientists to study,” Duranti said. “(The movement) involves a lot of people and has spread across the nation and even internationally.”

Professors Tim Groeling and Edward Walker contributed videos explaining aspects of the movement ““ both about two minutes long ““ to the blog.

“(The blog) will allow people across social sciences to apply what they have learned in their respective disciplines to the real world,” said Groeling, who is also chair of the communications studies department.

Walker, who teaches a course about collective behavior and social movements, said there were strong parallels between the Occupy movement and the material covered in his class, including how police and protesters negotiate public space.

While Walker’s video focuses on challenges of the Occupy movement and the movement’s effect on corporations, Groeling’s focuses primarily on how the movement is portrayed by the media.

The movement is causing changes in the public discourse on topics such as wealth redistribution, Groeling said in the video.

Although the division is unable to track who is viewing the blog, the page has been viewed nearly 3,400 times since its inception last month, said Paul Connor, digital projects adviser for the social sciences division.

Anyone can comment on blog posts and social science professors can make submissions to the site directly.

Individuals wishing to submit a post can email their submissions to the social sciences division, Connor said.

The Engaged Social Sciences blog is still in the experimental stage and blog activity is moderated by the division’s computing team to prevent circulation of spam, Duranti said.

“Disagreement facilitates discussion ““ that’s what we want,” he said.

Walker said the success of the blog will depend largely on the extent to which the UCLA community becomes involved.

The division is also looking at options including workshops or conferences to supplement content on the blog, Duranti said.

“We can’t impose open dialogue on other people. We will have to see what gets picked up on the blog and go from there,” Duranti said.

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