Jeremiah Bohr, assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh sociology department, is fascinated by the way our lives are shaped by social forces we typically ignore.
“Some of the most basic aspects of our identity and life outcomes are tightly bound up with the social groups we belong to, which is something that is easy to lose sight of in a very individualized culture,” Bohr said.
Bohr, who has a doctorate in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joined the UW Oshkosh sociology department in 2015, teaching the introduction to sociology, social research, environment and society and social stratification.
His research primarily focuses on environmental topics within sociology, including survey research on attitudes toward the environment.
“The research looks at how these attitudes vary across social groups or behaviors, but also how social inequality can be seen in certain environmental behaviors, like how households consume energy during hot and cold months,” Bohr said. “I hope to bring a greater awareness to both how our social attitudes and behaviors contribute to the way we understand and interact with the environment.”
Bohr also has researched the politics of climate change and the difficulty in building consensus around the issue. Recently, Bohr has started exploring topics using “Big Data,” which involves analyzing large data sets using computers to find patterns and trends in human behavior.
“I am interested in automated content analysis, where a large amount of textual data is analyzed to find common word associations over a period of time,” Bohr said. “For example, I can use this to track how Congress has framed issues around climate change over the past 20 years across thousands of floor speeches.”
“I also am undertaking a project that analyzes the use of social media by presidential campaigns, and will continue collecting data for this through November,” Bohr said.
With his Big Data research, Bohr uses a computer programming language to collect large amounts of data at a time.
“I can search the Congressional Record to download every speech from our congressional representatives for the last couple decades,” Bohr said. “With the presidential project, I have been downloading the Twitter accounts of every major candidate, and expect to have about 100,000 individual tweets by the time the election is over.”
Bohr then merges this with data on the candidate’s political polling and search engine popularity.
“With all of this, I’ll be able to analyze how candidates use their social media accounts to communicate with the public, which topics they discuss most often and when, which topics tend to overlap with one another, and whether these topics seem to correspond with how well they are doing in the polls or spikes in search engine traffic,” Bohr said.
As more information is shared online, Bohr said it is important for researchers to find new ways to study our culture.
“Even with something like Twitter where we type 140 characters at a time, we can recognize clear and sustained patterns in something that is very ephemeral,” Bohr said.