Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Contact Details

Dr Viktoria Spaiser's Publications


  • Mansel J, Spaiser V, Ausgrenzungsdynamiken In welchen Lebenslagen Jugendliche Fremdgruppen abwerten (Beltz Juventa, 2013)

    Das Buch bietet einen umfassenden Blick auf die vielfältigen Lebenslagen von Jugendlichen mit unterschiedlichen Hintergründen in Deutschland und darauf wie sich in diesen Lebenslagen abwertende Einstellungen entwickeln können.

  • Spaiser V, Neue Partizipationsmöglichkeiten? Wie Jugendliche mit und ohne Migrationshintergrund das Internet politisch nutzen ([n.pub.], 2013)

    Long description: Das Buch befasst sich damit wie junge Menschen das Internet nutzen, um sich politisch zu informieren, um politisch zu kommunizieren und politisch aktiv zu werden.

Journal articles

  • Spaiser V, Sumpter DJT, ‘Revising the human development sequence theory using an agent-based approach and data’, JASSS, 19.3 (2016)
    DOI: 10.18564/jasss.3084, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/98019/

    © 2016, University of Surrey. All rights reserved.Agent-based models and computer simulations are promising tools for studying emergent macrophenomena. We apply an agent-based approach in combination with data analysis to investigate the human development sequence (HDS) theory developed by Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel. Although the HDS theory is supported by correlational evidence, the sequence of economic growth, democracy andemancipation stated by the theory is not entirely consistent with data. We use an agent-based model to make quantitative predictions about several different micro-level mechanisms. Comparison to data allows us to identify important inconsistencies between HDS and the data, and propose revised agent-based models that modify the theory. Our results indicate the importance of elites and economic inequality in explaining the data available on democratisation.

  • Spaiser V, Hedström P, Ranganathan S, Jansson K, Nordvik MK, Sumpter DJT, ‘Identifying Complex Dynamics in Social Systems: A New Methodological Approach Applied to Study School Segregation’, Sociological Methods and Research 2016
    DOI: 10.1177/0049124116626174, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/92891/

    It is widely recognized that segregation processes are often the result of complex nonlinear dynamics. Empirical analyses of complex dynamics are however rare, because there is a lack of appropriate empirical modeling techniques that are capable of capturing complex patterns and nonlinearities. At the same time, we know that many social phenomena display nonlinearities. In this article, we introduce a new modeling tool in order to partly fill this void in the literature. Using data of all secondary schools in Stockholm county during the years 1990 to 2002, we demonstrate how the methodology can be applied to identify complex dynamic patterns like tipping points and multiple phase transitions with respect to segregation. We establish critical thresholds in schools’ ethnic compositions, in general, and in relation to various factors such as school quality and parents’ income, at which the schools are likely to tip and become increasingly segregated.

  • Ranganathan S, Nicolis SC, Spaiser V, Sumpter DJ, ‘Understanding Democracy and Development Traps Using a Data-Driven Approach’, Big data, 3.1 (2015), 22-33
    DOI: 10.1089/big.2014.0066, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88965/

    Methods from machine learning and data science are becoming increasingly important in the social sciences, providing powerful new ways of identifying statistical relationships in large data sets. However, these relationships do not necessarily offer an understanding of the processes underlying the data. To address this problem, we have developed a method for fitting nonlinear dynamical systems models to data related to social change. Here, we use this method to investigate how countries become trapped at low levels of socioeconomic development. We identify two types of traps. The first is a democracy trap, where countries with low levels of economic growth and/or citizen education fail to develop democracy. The second trap is in terms of cultural values, where countries with low levels of democracy and/or life expectancy fail to develop emancipative values. We show that many key developing countries, including India and Egypt, lie near the border of these development traps, and we investigate the time taken for these nations to transition toward higher democracy and socioeconomic well-being.

  • Spaiser V, Ranganathan S, Mann RP, Sumpter DJT, ‘The dynamics of democracy, development and cultural values’, PLoS ONE, 9.6 (2014)
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097856, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88964/

    Over the past decades many countries have experienced rapid changes in their economies, their democratic institutions and the values of their citizens. Comprehensive data measuring these changes across very different countries has recently become openly available. Between country similarities suggest common underlying dynamics in how countries develop in terms of economy, democracy and cultural values. We apply a novel Bayesian dynamical systems approach to identify the model which best captures the complex, mainly non-linear dynamics that underlie these changes. We show that the level of Human Development Index (HDI) in a country drives first democracy and then higher emancipation of citizens. This change occurs once the countries pass a certain threshold in HDI. The data also suggests that there is a limit to the growth of wealth, set by higher emancipation. Having reached a high level of democracy and emancipation, societies tend towards equilibrium that does not support further economic growth. Our findings give strong empirical evidence against a popular political science theory, known as the Human Development Sequence. Contrary to this theory, we find that implementation of human-rights and democratisation precede increases in emancipative values. © 2014 Spaiser et al.

  • Ranganathan S, Spaiser V, Mann RP, Sumpter DJT, ‘Bayesian Dynamical Systems Modelling in the Social Sciences’, PLoS ONE, 9.1 (2014)
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086468, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88963/

    Data arising from social systems is often highly complex, involving non-linear relationships between the macro-level variables that characterize these systems. We present a method for analyzing this type of longitudinal or panel data using differential equations. We identify the best non-linear functions that capture interactions between variables, employing Bayes factor to decide how many interaction terms should be included in the model. This method punishes overly complicated models and identifies models with the most explanatory power. We illustrate our approach on the classic example of relating democracy and economic growth, identifying non-linear relationships between these two variables. We show how multiple variables and variable lags can be accounted for and provide a toolbox in R to implement our approach.

  • Spaiser V, ‘Young Immigrants’ Internet Political Participation in Germany: Comparing German East Europeans and German Turks’, International Journal of E-Politics (IJEP), 4.1 (2013)
    DOI: 10.4018/jep.2013010101

    This paper discusses the results of research on young immigrants’ political participation on the Internet in Germany. The research focuses on young people from Turkish and East European backgrounds. The interrelation between offline political activities and online political participation is explained and the differences between the two groups are examined. While young German Turks are particularly politically active Internet users, young German East Europeans are rather hesitant about using the Internet for political purposes. Statistical models show that young German Turks’ political Internet use is motivated by grievances, while young German East Europeans’ political Internet use is motivated by sentimental pessimism and world-weariness.

  • Spaiser V, ‘Empowerment or democratic divide? Internet-based political participation of young immigrants and young natives in Germany’, Information Polity, 17.2 (2012), 115-127
    DOI: 10.3233/IP-2012-0268, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88969/

    In this paper, young people’s political participation on the Internet in Germany will be analyzed by statistical means and on the basis of survey data, comparing two groups: Germans (the majority group) and a minority group, consisting of young people from Turkey and various Arab countries, who share a religious affiliation. The young people from a Turkish or Arab background turned out to be particularly politically active online and offline, despite being rather socioeconomically disadvantaged. Statistical models presented in this paper show that this is probably related to their grievances caused by discrimination experiences because of their religion. Generally, the results suggest that disadvantaged minority groups may appropriate the Internet in order to raise their voice, although with some constraints.

  • Spaiser V, Ranganathan S, Bali Swain R, Sumpter DJT, ‘The Sustainable Development Oxymoron: Quantifying and Modelling the Incompatibility of Sustainable Development Goals’, International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology (Accepted)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/104415/

    In 2015, the UN adopted a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty, establish socioeconomic inclusion and protect the environment. Critical voices such as the International Council for Science, however, have expressed concerns about the potential incompatibility of the SDGs, specifically the incompatibility of socio-economic development and environmental sustainability. In this paper we test, quantify and model the alleged inconsistency of SDGs. Our analyses show which SDGs are consistent and which are conflicting. We measure the extent of inconsistency and conclude that the SDG agenda will fail as a whole if we continue with business as usual. We further explore the nature of the inconsistencies using dynamical systems models, which reveal that the focus on economic growth and consumption as a means for development underlies the inconsistency. Our models also show that there are factors which can contribute to development (health programs, government investment in education) on the one hand and ecological sustainability (renewable energy) on the other, without triggering the conflict between incompatible SDGs.


  • Mansel, J, Spaiser V, ‘Ängste und Kontrollverluste. Zusammenhänge mit Gruppenbezogener Menschenfeindlichkeit’, in Deutsche Zustände, 8 (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2010)

Conference papers

  • Spaiser V, ‘Young people's political participation on the internet in Germany: empowered ethnic minority groups?’ 12th Annual International Digital Government Research Conference: Digital Government Innovation in Challenging Times, 12/06/2011
    DOI: 10.1145/2037556.2037606

    In this paper, young people's political participation on the Internet in Germany will be analyzed by statistical means and on the basis of survey data, comparing five groups: ethnic Germans (the majority group) and four different minority groups. Young people with Turkish or Arab background turned out to be particularly politically active online and offline. Statistical models presented in this paper show that this is on the one hand related to their social context, which is rather politicized. On the other hand young people with Turkish or Arab background seem to be more prone to becoming politically active on the Internet and in the "real" world due to their grievances caused by discrimination experiences. Additionally, the models reveal other important factors to explain political participation on the Internet like political efficacy and Internet skills. Altogether, the results suggest that disadvantaged minority groups are not necessarily constrained by the (second-level) digital divide.

Conference presentations

  • Ranganathan, S, Spaiser V, Nicolis, SC, Bali Swain R, Sumpter, DJT, ‘Data-driven Modeling in the Social Sciences - A pragmatic approach for policy-makers’ KDD 2014 - 20th ACM SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, New York City, USA, 24/08/2014 - 27/08/2014
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88973/

Software / Code

  • Spaiser V, Ranganathan, S, Mann RP, Sumpter DJT, R package bdynsys (Bayesian Dynamical System Model), (CRAN: CRAN, 2014)
    Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/88971/

    Author URL [cran.r-project.org]

    The R package bdynsys for panel/longitudinal data combines methods to model changes in up to four indicators over times as a function of the indicators themselves and up to three predictors using ordinary differential equations (ODEs) with polynomial terms that allow to model complex and nonlinear effects. A Bayesian model selection approach is implemented. The package provides also visualisation tools to plot phase portraits of the dynamic system, showing the complex co-evolution of two indicators over time with the possibility to highlight trajectories for specified entities (e.g. countries, individuals). Furthermore the visualisation tools allow for making predictions of the trajectories of specified entities with respect to the indicators.

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