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Graig Klein

Graig Klein
Political Science, PhD

Applying a quantitative approach to the study of terrorism and measuring the impact of communication technologies like Twitter and Facebook in protest movements and political uprisings – just some of the ways the methodological training at Binghamton University is being directed by political science doctoral candidate Graig Klein.

“I wanted to be a politician when I was young, but after completing my undergraduate degree in political science I interned for the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq’s office in Washington, DC – an experience which shifted my interests to self-determination, protest movements and terrorism,” says Graig Klein, a doctoral student in the Political Science Department.

“My internship in Washington took place during the height of the debate over withdrawing troops from Iraq,” Klein explains. “Attending Congressional hearings and think-tank meetings stimulated my new academic direction. These interests were solidified through my experiences and travels throughout the Middle East. The unfolding of mass protests and the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 further fueled my interest in insurgency, protest movements and terrorism.”

Klein’s interests have evolved into two chief branches of research. The first traces the effects and impact of advanced communication technologies (social media, mobile phones) on protest movements. “It is inaccurate and inappropriate to say that Facebook or Twitter spurred the Arab Spring, but it is important to investigate and assess the impact [that] advanced communication has on the problems of collective action (dilemmas leaders and actors face when trying to organize support and engage participants),” Klein says. “Advances in communication and organizational technology appear to have reduced the barriers of collective action in many countries during the Arab Spring, but demonstrating that it was not a phenomenon and instead part of a general systematic shift in protest behavior is important.”

The other focus of Klein’s research applies a quantitative approach to the study of terrorism, rather than a qualitative approach that is the norm. “The majority of literature on terrorism focuses attention on variation within political environments that groups operate within and the characteristics of terrorist groups,” he says. “Most research in this field relies on qualitative reports and case studies in demonstrating casual relationships between a terrorist group and the larger, contextualizing political environment.” Klein’s research is different because it is “centered on variation among the characteristics of targets and the conflict environment both within states where attacks are generated and where they are experienced.

“Analyzing the statistical patterns of the effect that advanced communication technology has on protest movements is increasingly important as the Internet penetrates further into underdeveloped countries,” Klein says. “Improving our understanding of both protest behavior processes and terrorism is important to providing an awareness of if and when intervention is appropriate and necessary and can hopefully help reduce the level of violence experienced during protest movements. A stronger statistical understanding is additionally important to breaking inaccurate stereotypes of Islam that have developed since 9/11.”

As an undergraduate student at Binghamton, Klein developed a professional connection with Professor David Cingranelli, a tie he maintained through completion of his master’s degree, field research in Iraqi Kurdistan, studies in Egypt and time spent teaching at a community college. Cingranelli encouraged him to return to Binghamton and continue his research under the guidance of professors at a top-notch department, Klein says. “I really appreciate the cordialness among both faculty and students and the amount of collaboration that occurs. I can always find colleagues willing to discuss ideas and methods, and the faculty always have their office doors open and are willing to answer questions related to class or my research.”

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Last Updated: 10/23/12