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Riots: Behavioral Aspects - The Future Of Riot Research

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Riots are relatively rare and still unpredictable events. As such, opportunities for the ethnographic study of riot behavior have been few. Researchers have been limited to putting together the pieces after the event has passed. This has meant relying on surveys and census data, selecting variables for statistical analyses. Such analyses have been plagued by insensitivity to social and historical context, and have also failed to capture the spatial and temporal dynamics of riot behavior. Recent technological advances hold much promise for the future study of riot events. The increasing prevalence of videotaping may enable researchers to dissect riot activity frame by frame, while the use of Geographic Information Systems software will allow scholars to locate these behaviors in time and space. Layered with census demographics, survey data on community attitudes, and information on policing capabilities, riot-generated data will enable researchers to effectively link micro and macro units of analysis in a manner never before achieved. Such technology will help researches refine their predictions regarding where and when riots are most likely to occur. Like weather forecasting, however, the study of riot behavior will at best remain an imprecise science.

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