Köpfe, Forschung Uni Erfurt



My research is based at the intersection between sociology, social psychology, and criminology with a focus on interactions, deviant and collective behavior, and the use of 21st century video data for scientific inquiry. I often combine Video Data Analysis and multidisciplinary theoretical perspectives with the goal to better understand social processes and interaction.

Current research areas I work on include:

Video Data Analysis

Since 2013, Nicolas M. Legewie (University of Erfurt) and I explore how rapidly developing video and communication technology, prevalent filming of social life, and sharing on online platforms is transforming the possibilities of video-based social science research. Whether through mobile phone footage, body-worn cameras, videos from public surveillance, or self-recorded videos, researchers have access to an ever-expanding pool of data on real-life situations and interactions. We build a multidisciplinary framework for how to use these videos in a systematic, transparent, ethical, and meaningful way in the social sciences.

Current publications from this project include our 2022 book “Video Data Analysis - How to Use 21st Century Video in the Social Sciences” (SAGE Publications) and our forthcoming special issue on Video Data Analysis in Sociological Methods and Research.

On our homepage (VideoDataAnalysis.com), we collect relevant information on VDA, regularly post resources and news, and provide a list of empirical and methodological publications on video-based social research. On our VDA YouTube Channel we start collecting talks on VDA.

Collective behavior and rule-breaking

In this research field, I explore how collectives, in particular larger crowds of people, break rules. I study different levels of rule breaks, from low-threshold rule-breaks to more severe cases such as protest violence. I analyze how interactions, emotional dynamics, interpretations, use of space, or quorums impact dynamics of rule breaking. In one project, I aim to  explore collective rule-breaking on different scales from the perspectives of sociology, neurosciences, behavioral biology, and theoretical physics with my colleagues Marcel Brass, Jens Krause, and Pawel Romanczuk (all HU Berlin). A recent publication includes our article “Collective rule-breaking” in Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

In my ongoing research on protest violence, I focus on group dynamics that lead to escalation. Recent publications include my book “Situational Breakdowns: Understanding Protest Violence and Other Surprising Outcomes” (Oxford University Press) and my article “Whose streets? Our streets!’: Negotiations of Space and Violence in Protests”, published in Social Problems.


In my research on the emergence of physical violence I study both individual and collective violence. I examine a multitude of factors that contribute to violence and examine their causal relationship to violent outbreaks. In my current book project on rampage school shootings, I focus on one of the most drastic types of violence: kids running amok and killing other kids. I study perpetrators’ life courses, motivations, as well as situational dynamics of a full sample of school shootings.

In my project on officer-involved shootings in the US, I study the role of racial bias and situational interaction in leading to shootings. Data collection and analysis for this project was conducted during my one-year research stay at Yale University (2019&2020) and funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

Recent publications include my forthcoming article „School Shootings - The Social Dynamics of Mental Disorder“ in the Research Handbook on Society and Mental Health as well as my article Situation, Context, and Causality – On a Core Debate of Violence Researchin Violence: An International Journal.