Exploring controversies

Exploring your controversy

Choosing your controversy

When starting a cartographic campaign, the first thing to do is selecting the controversy you want to study. As hotter controversies usually give better cartographies, one good strategy is checking out the websites that aggregate news and seeing what issues stand out:

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Some news-aggregators rely on community finding and filtering in a web 2.0 style :

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You may also want to have a look at websites that aggregate specifically news on science and technology:

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Not only, these sites provide an overview of the ‘news sphere’, but they also offer direct access to articles in the magazines, journals, newspapers and so on. Such ‘gateway’ function makes these sites a good starting point for a cartographic campaign.

Browsing your controversy

Once you have chosen a controversial topic, you should try to be acquainted with it in order to:

  1. Make sure that your controversy is a good case study (by checking if it is open and lively).
  2. Identifying the specific issues you want to focus (be as specific as possible).

A quick way to grasp how a controversy is structured is to use the clustering capabilities offered by modern search engines:

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You can also search some of the key actor of your controversy through an entity search engine to get a bunch of graphs and schemas concerning your controversy:

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You can search for an overview of your topic in a mind map library, such as:

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Or in wiki, such as:

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Or in a debate aggregator, such as:

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Collecting documents about your controversy

Once you have defined the specific subject of your cartographic campaign, you may start collecting as much documentation as possible on it. In order to do this, you will have to rely on search engines and portals. Be careful to choose your sources according to the type of documents you are looking for.

Scientific literature

As the cartography of controversies of controversy is focussed on technoscientific debates, the most relevant literature is usually the scientific one. To search articles in scientific reviews and journals, you can use several different citation databases, some of which are free:

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and some of which are not:

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Such databases provide access to the titles, the authors, the abstracts and the citations of the articles they gathers and usually link to the reviews websites for the full text of the articles. The access to the full text of scientific literature is therefore often subjected to a fee or to a subscription.

An alternative is searching in the archives participating in the Open Archives movement. To explore such archives, use the dedicated harvesters such as:

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A specific type of scientific literature is particularly important for the cartography of controversies is, no need to say, the STS literature. To limit your research to the works in science and technology studies use:

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Other literatures

The scientific articles, no need to say, are not the only interesting type of technical literature that you may want to collect on your controversy. Other materials you may be interested into are:

Patents

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Financial data

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Academic syllabi

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Books

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Grey Literature

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Bibliographic software

Thanks to this plurality of bibliographic sources, you will soon be submerged by a flood of articles and citations. To keep them organised, use some personal bibliographic software, such as:

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News and blogs

Besides the scientific and technical literature, you should also keep an eye on news, using the news aggregators we mentioned above or some news subscription systems such as:

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Finally, do not forget to monitor what is said on your controversy in the blogosphere, by checking some of the following blogs search engines (most of which also provide some analysis or visual representation of blog activity on any given topic):

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Analysing the documentation concerning your controversy

After having collected as much documentation as possible concerning your controversy, you will have to examine such material in order to identify the most important documents and analyse them. Different tools are available according to the type of literature you wish to analyse.

Scientific literature

Scientific literature is usually analysed either by calculating statistical indicators:

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or by building citations graphs:

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Texts

If the exploration of your controversy requires the examination of large textual corpus, you may consider the possibility of using some textual analysis tools:

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Websites

If one or more websites seem particularly central in your controversy, you can inspect them to retrieve their history and visibility in the web space:

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