The Meaning of Action: Linking Goals, Tactics, and Strategies in the Environmental Movement

Center for the Study of Law & Society


February 28, 2020
12:45pm to 2:00pm
UC Berkeley

CSLS Special Event
Date: Friday, February 28, 2020
Time: 12:45 - 2:00 PM
Location: Selznick Seminar Room, Center for the Study of Law and Society, Berkeley Law School (2240 Piedmont Ave, Berkeley, CA)

Abstract: Collective behavior is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a social movement. To be classified as a social movement, collective action must be linked to other actions and symbols that, taken together, work toward a coherent movement strategy. Linking action to meaning is an important topic in social movements research, but systematically analyzing these links has been both theoretically and methodologically limited. Using the U.S. environmental movement as a case study, and employing a data-driven and inductive strategy combining both computational and qualitative methods, we find the underlying principle linking actions to meaning within this movement is what level of society the organization views as the locus of change—their goal orientation. Movement strategy, which we define as the linking of a particular organizational goal orientation to a set of actions, we find can be measured through movement discourse, illuminating the meaning-making functions of social movements.

This event is hosted by the Center for the Study of Law and Society at the UC Berkeley Law School. For more information, please contact


Laura K. Nelson

BIDS Alum – Data Science Fellow

Former BIDS Data Science Fellow Laura K. Nelson is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University. Laura uses computational methods and open source tools - principally automated text analysis - to study social movements, culture, gender, institutions, and organizations. She is particularly interested in developing computational tools that can bolster the way social scientists do inductive and theory-driven research. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and she also holds an MA from UC Berkeley and a BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. While at UC Berkeley, she was a postdoctoral fellow with Digital Humanities @ Berkeley, developing a course for undergraduates on computational text analysis in the humanities and social sciences.