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  1. Short intensive course: Systematic Video Observation and Analysis of Human Conflict

Short intensive course: Systematic Video Observation and Analysis of Human Conflict

30 October to 11 December 2020, every Friday between 15 and 17. This short online course offers participants a hands-on training that will allow them to formulate and carry out studies of human conflicts based on video analysis. Systematic video observation is inspired by an ethogram method in behavioral biology that involves a qualitative phase of inductively observing and developing the content of a behavioral inventory referred to as an ethogram, and a subsequent quantitative phase of analyzing patterns through statistical analysis.

Systematic video observation is a methodology developed as a joint venture of scholars from criminology, anthropology, psychology, ethology, and sociology over the last five years. The course is therefore also set up as a joint venture between the scholars that have been involved in this development. They will take on the role of instructors in the course.

The course consists of a weekly session explaining the different steps in our approach to video analysis. Each session includes two presentations of about 45 minutes, one suggested reading, and a suggested exercise of watching and analyzing videos of human conflicts that are available online. Additionally, we offer a list of suggested literature, see below.
Even though online environments are contrary to the working procedure that we usually apply in the process of carrying out systematic video observations – namely sitting in the same room and discussing analytical dilemmas and choices in a group – we decided to offer it online. The online engagement will not replace our usual working procedure but offers a second best in times of a public health crisis.

Period: 30 October to 11 December 2020
Time: Fridays between 15 and 17
Medium: Online via Zoom
Relevance: Students, PhD’s and scholars
Instructors: Camilla Bank Friis (University of Copenhagen), Richard Philpot (Lancaster University), Peter Ejbye-Ernst (NSCR/UvA), Lasse Liebst (University of Copenhagen/NSCR), Wim Bernasco (NSCR/VU), Virginia Pallante (NSCR), Don Weenink (UvA), Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard (NSCR/UvA)
Coordinator: Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard
Register via nscr@nscr.nl.


Time: 30 October, 15-17
Instructor: Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard and Camilla Bank Friis
Prelude: Why use video for studying human conflict?
Questions addressed:

  • What can you learn from video observations compared to other methods for studying conflicts?
  • What kinds of questions can you answer with this method?
  • What are the challenges of studying conflict using video?

Step 1: Choosing source
Questions addressed:

  • What kinds of video observations can you make use of? (by camera type and function, by type of location, by type of situation)
  • From where do you get the footage?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of open source videos? (in terms of information availability, costs, validity, reliability)
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of CCTV camera footage? (in terms of information availability, costs, validity, reliability)
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of body worn camera footage? (in terms of information availability, costs, validity, reliability)
  1. STEP 2 AND 3

Time: 6 November, 15-17
Instructor: Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard and Peter Ejbye-Ernst
Step 2: Getting access
Questions addressed:

  • From who do you need permission?
  • What are the ethical, legal and privacy issues (GDPR)
  • Who are gatekeepers?
  • How do you communicate and collaborate with gatekeepers?
  • What are the procedures for the recordings?
  • For how long are the recordings stored and how does that influence your data collection?

Step 3: Dealing with technicalities
Questions addressed:

  • Physical and software protection issues (e.g., Security Analytical Lap)
  • Organizing your files (practical tips, separate originals from edited, etc.)
  • Social protection issues (authorization)
  • Video formats (lack of standardization)
  • Software issues (Video Players, BORIS, Observer XT, other ...)
  1. STEP 4 AND 5

Time: 13 November, 15-17
Instructor: Richard Philpot and Lasse Liebst
Step 4: Selecting the sample
Questions addressed:

  • What are the sample selection biases?
  • How do you avoid sampling on the dependent variable?
  • How do you select samples for international comparisons?
  • How do you figure out what is missing?
  • What kinds of recordings are useful?
  • What kinds of recordings do you exclude?
  • How do you construct training samples?
  • How can you use a power analysis to establish your sample size?

Step 5: Developing the ethogram
Questions addressed:

  • What do you look for when watching closely?
  • What kinds of behavior do you include?
  • How interpretive do you code?
  • How do you consider the context?
  • How do you reduce complexity?
  • What kinds of behavior to you designate to individuals?
  • What kinds of behavior to you designate to collectivities?
  • How important is the duration?
  • When do you need time-stamped versus global coding?
  • When are you done with your observations?
  1. STEP 6 & 7

Time: 20 November, 15-17
Instructor: Camilla Bank Friis and Peter Ejbye-Ernst
Step 6: Applying coding
Questions addressed:

  • How much training do you need to do the coding?
  • Should you code alone or in groups?
  • How do you identify individuals in the videos?
  • How to you identify collectivities?
  • How many people do you need to code?
  • How familiar should you be with the research questions in order to be able to code?
  • How do you follow the individual?
  • How do you code situational and individual characteristics?
  • How do you make the coding process reproducible?

Step 7: Ensuring validity
Questions addressed:

  • How much do you need to know about the topic before you code?
  • What kinds of information do you draw on for the coding?
  • What do you do when you disagree on interpretations?
  • How do you avoid behaviorism?
  • How do you avoid over interpretation?
  1. STEP 8, 9 AND 10

Time: 27 November, 15-17
Instructor: Wim Bernasco and Peter Ejbye-Ernst
Step 8: Testing reliability
Questions addressed:

  • What does reliability mean?
  • Why is reliability important?
  • How do you test reliability?
  • What kinds of measures can you use to test reliability (Cohen Kappa, Krippendorff alpha, Gwet AC2, etc)?
  • What do you do with unreliable codes?

Step 9: Applying statistics
Questions addressed:

  • How do you transform codes into data?
  • How do you visualize data?
  • What kinds of statistical models can you use?
  • How to make data analysis reproducible?

Step 10: Sharing ethograms, data and findings
Questions addressed:

  • When do video recordings become data?
  • What kinds of data can you share?
  • How do you foster replication studies?
  • How do you use existing ethograms for your own study?
  • How do you illustrate your findings in publications and presentations?

Time: 4 December, 15-17
Instructor: Virginia Palante and Don Weenink
Learning from ethology
Questions addressed:

  • What types of conflict behavior are relevant for both human and non-human primates?
  • What are steps in developing ethograms for animal behavior?
  • How do these steps differ from those in the systematic video observation approach?
  • What kinds of analysis are typical in ethology?
  • What can social scientists learn from the ethogram method of ethologists?

Learning from ethnomethodology
Questions addressed:

  • What is an ethnomethodology approach to video data?
  • How does this differ from the systematic video observation approach?
  • How do you carry out an ethnomethodology approach to video data?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses compared to systematic video observation approach?

Time: 11 December, 15-17
Instructor: Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard (but shared discussion)
Postlude: How will systematic video observations bring conflict studies further?
Questions addressed:

  • How does this method provide answers to the replication and validity crisis of the behavioral sciences?
  • How does it allow for systematic comparisons?
  • How does it build bridges between the social and natural sciences?

Suggested literature

Lindegaard, Marie Rosenkrantz, and Wim Bernasco. 2018. Lessons Learned from Crime Caught on Camera. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 55 (1):155-186.
This is an editoral paper of a special issue dedicated to camera-based research in criminology.

Nassauer, Anne, and Nicolas M. Legewie. Video Data Analysis:A Methodological Frame for a Novel Research Trend. Sociological Methods & Research.

Philpot, R., L. Liebst, K. Møller, M.R. Lindegaard, and M. Levine 2019. Capturing Violence in the Night-Time Economy: A Review of Established and Emerging Methodologies. Aggression and Violent Behavior 46: 56-65.
This paper is a comprehensive general discussion of the methodology of video data analysis in the social sciences.


Jones, Laura K., Bonnie Mowinski Jennings, Ryan M. Goelz, Kent W. Haythorn, Joel B. Zivot, and Frans B. M. de Waal. 2016. An Ethogram to Quantify Operating Room Behavior. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 50 (4):487-496.
This paper provides an example of how an ethogram was constructed in the process of conducting a social science study.


Friard, Olivier, and Marco Gamba. 2016. BORIS: a free, versatile open-source event-logging software for video/audio coding and live observations. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 7 (11):1325-1330.
This paper describes the BORIS software. (The software and additional material is freely available at www.boris.unito.it).

Zimmerman, Patrick H., J. Elizabeth Bolhuis, Albert Willemsen, Erik S. Meyer, and Lucas P. J. J. Noldus. 2009. The Observer XT: A tool for the integration and synchronization of multimodal signals. Behavior Research Methods 41 (3):731-735.
This paper describes the Observer XT software (produced by Noldus).

Research examples

Dabney, Dean A., Richard C. Hollinger, and Laura Dugan. 2004. Who actually steals? A study of covertly observed shoplifters. Justice Quarterly 21 (4):693-728.
This paper examines shoplifting by covertly recorded camera footage in a retail drug store. Of the customers, 8.5% of were observed shoplifting. Behavioral indicators carried far more predictive power than demographic characterstics.

Levine, Mark, Paul J. Taylor, and Rachel Best. 2011. Third Parties, Violence, and Conflict Resolution: The Role of Group Size and Collective Action in the Microregulation of Violence. Psychological Science 22 (3):406-412.
This paper is one of the first to study real-life human violence and conflict using CCTV footage of public settings in the nighttime economy in England.

Lindegaard, Marie Rosenkrantz, Lasse Suonperä Liebst, Wim Bernasco, Marie Bruvik Heinskou, Richard Philpot, Mark Levine, and Peter Verbeek. 2017. Consolation in the aftermath of robberies resembles post-aggression consolation in chimpanzees. PLoS ONE 12 (5):e0177725.
This is a paper that analyzes consolation behavior in the aftermath of commercial robberies caught on security cameras in The Netherlands, and is the source of some exercises and materials in the ASC 2018 pre-meeting workshop.


Prof. Marie R. Lindegaard

Senior Researcher

Prof. Wim Bernasco

Senior Researcher

Dr Peter Ejbye-Ernst


Dr Virginia Pallante


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