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How to follow actors through their traces
Exploiting digital traceability
Tommaso Venturini
tommaso.venturini@sciences...
The quali/quantitative divide
rich data, small populations
large populations, poor data
The problems with
either methods
Traditional quantitative methods:
• data collection:
standard discourses’ collection risk...
The problem with both
methods
rich data, small populations
large populations, poor data
Wide angle VS. telephoto
Follow the White Rabbit
why controversy mapping (and digital methods) will change
everything you know about sociology
Tomm...
… is reified in social
theory
The collective self is not a simple epiphenomenon of
its morphologic base, precisely as the ...
Emergence
The emergent is unlike its components insofar as
these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced
to their su...
Cats and mice Jack Cohen, 2000
The Collapse of Chaos:
Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World
The amazing dictyostelium
discoideum Evelyn Fox Keller
“morphogenesis”
God save the ant
Queen
Theraulaz, G. & Bonabeau, E. (1999)
A brief history of stigmergy
Artificial Life, 5, 97–116
The Bootstrapping of
life
The bootstrapping of
intelligence
The bootstrapping of
society Thomas Hobbes, 1651
The Leviathan
Gulliver
sociology
Gulliver's Travels
Jonathan Swift, 1726
Diving in magma T. Venturini (2010)
Public Understanding of Science 19(3)
The Tarde vs Durkheim
controversy
Gabriel Tarde vs Emile Durkheim
Against emergence
It is surprising to see the men of sciences, so ready to
repeat that nothing is ever created from nothin...
Against emergence
Supposons pour un instant qu'un de nos États humains, composé non de quelques milliers
mais de quelques ...
How to overcome the
quali-quantitative divide?
Inscriptions
as traces Callon, M., Law, J., & Rip, A. (1986)
Mapping the Dynamics of Science & Technology
Inscriptions
as traces Callon, M., Law, J., & Rip, A. (1986)
Mapping the Dynamics of Science & Technology
And then the web arrived…
<a href="http://www.medialab.sciencespo.fr/index.php"> click here </a>
And then the web arrived…
and Google with it
Brin, S., & Page, P. (1998).
The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Se...
Digital
traceability Latour, B. (2007). Beware your Imagination Leave Digital Traces.
Times Higher Literary Supplement.
Ow...
Digital
traceability
Once you can get information as bores, bytes, modem, sockets,
cables and so on, you have actually a m...
From digital
traceability …
Bruno Latour (1998), argued that the Web is mainly of importance to
social science insofar as ...
… to digital
methods
The Internet is employed as a site of research for far more than just
online culture. The issue no lo...
Quali-quantitative
methods
Top 50 US blogs
Ben Fry, 2006
http://nymag.com/news/media/15972/
Datascapes exploration
Linkscape
Linkscape©
by Linkfluence©
médialab tools
Alice sociology Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll, 1865
Building on faults T. Venturini (2012)
Public Understanding of Science 21(7)
Beware!
1. More data means more noise
2. Digital data is not your data
Beware: more data
means more noise!
Taking “data mining”
seriously Yanacocha Gold Mine,
Cajamarca, Peru
An (pseudo-) exhaustive map
of the Web http://internet-map.net
Compulsive hoarding
A good
map of the Web politicosphere.blog.lemonde.fr
A good
map of the Web politicosphere.blog.lemonde.fr
How to search/query
Bisphenol
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A
Bisphenol heart diseases controversy
http://www.fox...
How to search/query
Bisphenol
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A
Bisphenol heart diseases controversy
http://www.fox...
Subject-specific keywords
• Proper names
• Name of institutions
• Toponyms
• Scientific/technical terminology
• Scientific...
Improving your
query
• Exploit linguistic differences
• Go advanced (use search fields)
• Limit the time span
• Use search...
Beware: digital data
is not your data!
Whose data
is this?
• Proliferation of new devices, genres and formats for the documentation
of social life… explosion of ...
Redistribution of
research methods
• Methods as usual (ex. Andrew Abbott, )
The techniques used by digital platforms have ...
Natural
experiments
Snow, J. (1855). On the Mode of
Communication of Cholera
Natural
experiments
Snow, J. (1855). On the Mode of
Communication of Cholera
Natural
experiments
Snow, J. (1855). On the Mode of
Communication of Cholera
tommaso.venturini@sciences-po.fr
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How to follow actors through their traces. Exploiting digital traceability

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How to follow actors through their traces. Exploiting digital traceability

  1. 1. HOW How to follow actors through their traces Exploiting digital traceability Tommaso Venturini tommaso.venturini@sciences-po.fr
  2. 2. The quali/quantitative divide rich data, small populations large populations, poor data
  3. 3. The problems with either methods Traditional quantitative methods: • data collection: standard discourses’ collection risks to hide the heterogeneity • data treatment: statistical comparison risks to hide divergences Traditional qualitative methods: •data collection: risk of not being representative (beyond small controversies) •data treatment: problem of weighting different discourse
  4. 4. The problem with both methods rich data, small populations large populations, poor data Wide angle VS. telephoto
  5. 5. Follow the White Rabbit why controversy mapping (and digital methods) will change everything you know about sociology Tommaso Venturini tommaso.venturini@sciences-po.fr The methodological strabismus of social sciences… Photo credit – tarout_sun via Flickr - ©
  6. 6. … is reified in social theory The collective self is not a simple epiphenomenon of its morphologic base, precisely as the individual self is not a simple efflorescence of the nervous system. For the collective self to appear, a sui generis synthesis of individual self has to be produced. This synthesis creates a world of feelings, ideas, images that, once come to life, follow their own laws. Emile Durkheim, 1912 Le formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse
  7. 7. Emergence The emergent is unlike its components insofar as these are incommensurable, and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference (p. 412) George Henry Lewes, 1875 Problems of Life and Mind
  8. 8. Cats and mice Jack Cohen, 2000 The Collapse of Chaos: Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World
  9. 9. The amazing dictyostelium discoideum Evelyn Fox Keller “morphogenesis”
  10. 10. God save the ant Queen Theraulaz, G. & Bonabeau, E. (1999) A brief history of stigmergy Artificial Life, 5, 97–116
  11. 11. The Bootstrapping of life
  12. 12. The bootstrapping of intelligence
  13. 13. The bootstrapping of society Thomas Hobbes, 1651 The Leviathan
  14. 14. Gulliver sociology Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift, 1726
  15. 15. Diving in magma T. Venturini (2010) Public Understanding of Science 19(3)
  16. 16. The Tarde vs Durkheim controversy Gabriel Tarde vs Emile Durkheim
  17. 17. Against emergence It is surprising to see the men of sciences, so ready to repeat that nothing is ever created from nothing, admitting implicitly (as if it was self-evident) that the connections among different beings can become beings themselves (p. 67) Tarde, 1893 Monadologie et sociologie
  18. 18. Against emergence Supposons pour un instant qu'un de nos États humains, composé non de quelques milliers mais de quelques quatrillions ou quintillions d'hommes hermétiquement clos et inaccessibles individuellement (sorte de Chine infiniment plus populeuse encore et plus fermée) nous soit simplement connu par les données de ses statisticiens, dont les chiffres portant sur de très grands nombres se reproduiraient avec une extrême régularité. Quand une révolution politique ou sociale, qui nous serait révélée par un grossissement ou un affaissement brusques de certains de ces chiffres, se produirait dans cet État, nous aurions beau être certains qu'il s'agit là d'un fait causé par des idées et des passions individuelles, nous éviterions de nous perdre en conjectures superflues sur la nature de ces causes seules vraies, mais impénétrables, et le plus sage nous paraîtrait d'expliquer tant bien que mal les chiffres anormaux par des comparaisons ingénieuses avec les chiffres normaux habilement maniés. Nous atteindrions ainsi au moins des résultats clairs et des vérités symboliques. Toutefois, il importerait de temps en temps de nous rappeler le caractère purement symbolique de ces vérités. Tarde, 1893 Monadologie et sociologie
  19. 19. How to overcome the quali-quantitative divide?
  20. 20. Inscriptions as traces Callon, M., Law, J., & Rip, A. (1986) Mapping the Dynamics of Science & Technology
  21. 21. Inscriptions as traces Callon, M., Law, J., & Rip, A. (1986) Mapping the Dynamics of Science & Technology
  22. 22. And then the web arrived… <a href="http://www.medialab.sciencespo.fr/index.php"> click here </a>
  23. 23. And then the web arrived… and Google with it Brin, S., & Page, P. (1998). The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. Computer Networks and ISDN Systems, 30(1-7), 107–117
  24. 24. Digital traceability Latour, B. (2007). Beware your Imagination Leave Digital Traces. Times Higher Literary Supplement. Owen Gingerich, the great historian of astronomy, spent a life-time retrieving all the annotations of all the copies of Copernicus’s first edition. He could thus give a precise meaning to the rather empty notion of “Copernican revolution” and could show which parts of the book everyone had read and misinterpreted. Nowadays, any scientist can do the same for each portion of each article he or she has published so long as the local library has bought a good package of digital data banks. But what is more extraordinary is that any journalist can do so as well for the latest Madonna video or the dirtiest rumour about Prince Harry’s love affairs. In other words, the former distinction between the circulation of facts and the dissemination of opinions has been erased in such a way that they are both graduating to the same type of visibility — not a small advantage if we wish to disentangle the mixture of facts and opinions that has become our usual diet of information
  25. 25. Digital traceability Once you can get information as bores, bytes, modem, sockets, cables and so on, you have actually a more material way of looking at what happens in Society. Virtual Society thus, is not a thing of the future, it’s the materialisation, the traceability of society. It renders visible because of the obsessive necessity of materialising information into cables, into data. Latour, B. 1998 “Thought Experiments in Social Science: from the Social Contract to Virtual Society”
  26. 26. From digital traceability … Bruno Latour (1998), argued that the Web is mainly of importance to social science insofar as it makes possible new types of descriptions of social life. According to Latour, the social integration of the Web constitutes an event for social science because the social link becomes traceable in this medium. Thus, social relations are established in a tangible form as a material network connection. We take Latour’s claim of the tangibility of the social as a point of departure in our search (p. 342). Rogers, R., and Marres, N. 2002 “Frenchs candals on the Web, and on the streets: A small experiment in stretching the limits of reported reality.” Asian Journal of Social Science 66: 339-353.
  27. 27. … to digital methods The Internet is employed as a site of research for far more than just online culture. The issue no longer is how much of society and culture is online, but rather how to diagnose cultural change and societal conditions with the Internet. The conceptual point of departure for the research program is the recognition that the Internet is not only an object of study, but also a source. Rogers, R. 2009 The End of the Virtual: Digital Methods. Amsterdam University Press.
  28. 28. Quali-quantitative methods Top 50 US blogs Ben Fry, 2006 http://nymag.com/news/media/15972/
  29. 29. Datascapes exploration Linkscape Linkscape© by Linkfluence©
  30. 30. médialab tools
  31. 31. Alice sociology Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll, 1865
  32. 32. Building on faults T. Venturini (2012) Public Understanding of Science 21(7)
  33. 33. Beware! 1. More data means more noise 2. Digital data is not your data
  34. 34. Beware: more data means more noise!
  35. 35. Taking “data mining” seriously Yanacocha Gold Mine, Cajamarca, Peru
  36. 36. An (pseudo-) exhaustive map of the Web http://internet-map.net
  37. 37. Compulsive hoarding
  38. 38. A good map of the Web politicosphere.blog.lemonde.fr
  39. 39. A good map of the Web politicosphere.blog.lemonde.fr
  40. 40. How to search/query Bisphenol http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A Bisphenol heart diseases controversy http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/07/bpa-chemical-may-be-tied-to-heart-disease/ Bisphenol Melzer controversy http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60496-6/fulltext
  41. 41. How to search/query Bisphenol http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A Bisphenol heart diseases controversy http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/03/07/bpa-chemical-may-be-tied-to-heart-disease/ Bisphenol Melzer controversy http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)60496-6/fulltext BPA Polycarbonate endocrine disruptor hearth desease David Melzer Food and Drug Administration coronary artery disease Monica Lind Jeremy Pearson Steven Hentges Polycarbonate Global Group
  42. 42. Subject-specific keywords • Proper names • Name of institutions • Toponyms • Scientific/technical terminology • Scientific references • …
  43. 43. Improving your query • Exploit linguistic differences • Go advanced (use search fields) • Limit the time span • Use search operators • “exact” / -exclude / ~synonyms / * / OR / AND
  44. 44. Beware: digital data is not your data!
  45. 45. Whose data is this? • Proliferation of new devices, genres and formats for the documentation of social life… explosion of digital technologies that enable people to report and comment upon social life. • Routine generation of data about social life as part of social life. ‘Social media’ platforms… embed the process of social data generation in everyday practices. • Development of online platforms and tools for the analysis of digital social data. These days, most online platforms come with ‘analytics’ attached: a set of tools and services facilitating the analysis of the data generated by said platforms. Marres, N. (2011). Re-distributing Methods: Interventions in Digital Social Research.
  46. 46. Redistribution of research methods • Methods as usual (ex. Andrew Abbott, ) The techniques used by digital platforms have been long used in social sciences. • Big methods (ex. Newman et al, 2007) Digital traceability increases the quantity of social data thereby demanding use of mathematical techniques of analysis. • Virtual methods (ex. Christine Hine, 2000, 2005) Digital media transform the quality of social practices and demand therefore increased efforts of observations and interpretation. • Digital methods (ex. Richard Rogers, 2009) Digital platforms have their own methods that need to be understood and re-purposed for social research. • Re-mediation of methods (ex. Nortje Marres, 2011) The techniques used by digital platforms have been long used in social sciences, but are radically transformed the new context of their use. Marres, N. (2011). Re-distributing Methods: Interventions in Digital Social Research. More redistribution Less
  47. 47. Natural experiments Snow, J. (1855). On the Mode of Communication of Cholera
  48. 48. Natural experiments Snow, J. (1855). On the Mode of Communication of Cholera
  49. 49. Natural experiments Snow, J. (1855). On the Mode of Communication of Cholera
  50. 50. tommaso.venturini@sciences-po.fr

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