Using Mobile Device Traces to Improve Near-Real Time Data Collection During the George Floyd Protests

14 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2020

See all articles by David Van Dijcke

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Date Written: June 7, 2020

Abstract

This research note presents a method for using mobile device trace data to improve collection of data on spontaneously erupting protest activity and related events. Based on this method, it presents a highly granular dataset of such activity for the George Floyd Protests in the United States. We use anonymous aggregated mobile device trace data to identify device surges—anomalous changes in the number of devices in a small geographic area—consistent with the assembly of a large number of individuals. Preliminary estimates from ongoing data collection of protest sites and scale are presented. Establishing better measures of where and when protests occur across and within cities improves researchers’ understanding of the downstream political and social consequences of mobilization.

Keywords: George Floyd, protests, riots, big data, cellphone, mobile devices, location trace, GPS pings

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Van Dijcke, David and Wright, Austin L., Using Mobile Device Traces to Improve Near-Real Time Data Collection During the George Floyd Protests (June 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3621731 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3621731

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ( email )

2350 Hayward Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

Austin L. Wright (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1307 E 60th St
Chicago, IL IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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