Expert hearing on disinformation and ‘junk news’

I have been invited to intervene as expert on junk news and online misinformation at the 140th Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union (Doha, 09/04/19).

Read the answers I gave during my hearing

From Fake News to Online Attention Hyper-Synchronization

In the seminar I gave to ANU Sociology School, I’ve discussed the proliferation of junk news in online discussion arenas and to shift the focus from the content of this news to the way in which digital infrastructures amplify and accelerate media attention cycles and degrade the quality of public debate.

I’ve considered the troubles of the contemporary media system from five different viewpoints (economic, technological, social, cultural and political) and conceptualise them as a metabolic rather than infective disorders.

Download the slides of the presentation

Junk News Podcast

I’ve recently been interviewed by Mathilde Simon for “Reset” the Podcast of the Fondation Internet Nouvelle Génération. During the interview (in French), I’ve discussed why “fake news” is a terrible label for the current wave of misinformation and why junk news has become so popular online.

Listen to the podcast

The Web and its Publics

In the talk, I discuss the social and political consequences of the organization of digital media. I consider the limits of a simplistic reading of the power-law distribution of online visibility and the hopes raised by the thematic clustering and the dynamism of the Web.

I also touch on the risks that these dynamics entail exploring five series of causes (in economy, media, technology, culture and politics ) which encourage the recent proliferation of ‘junk news’ (see the post “From Fake to Junk News, the Data Politics of Online Virality” for a text detailing these causes).

Download the slides of the presentation

Teaching Infrastructures Breaching through Data journalism and Data Activism

Conference of the European Association of Studies of Science and Technology, 25-28 July, Lancaster UK

Far from being neutral, data generate political effects at every stage of their production, cleaning, analysis and presentation. Such effects are sometimes manifest, for example in the use of demographic statistics for the justification of public governance, and sometimes, subtler for example in the way we classify knowledge in our libraries.

While the bias of the data is easy to proclaim, it is more difficult to observe and even more to teach. Information systems hide their political attachments, not necessarily maliciously, but simply because such opacity makes them more efficient in their tasks of knowledge management. It would be impossible to search a piece of information on the Web if, every time, we had to discuss Google’s business model or to wonder why its algorithms privilege some results. Yet, data infrastructures have fundamentals political consequences that must be part of any curriculum related to digital technologies.

Data activism arises precisely from the desire to expose the power asymmetries inherent to information systems. It seeks to promote access to data; to investigate the conditions of their production; to explain the constraints they generate; to propose alternative ways of redistributing their social consequences. Precisely because it raises awareness about the political dimension of digital technologies, the practice of data activism can be beneficial to make students sensitive to the effects of the sociotechnical infrastructures.

In this contribution we discuss the benefits and the difficulties of teaching data activism and data journalism drawing on the experience of a course at ENS Lyon France and at King’s College London.

Download the slides of the presentation

The Expert Network (presentation for EASST 2018)

Conference of the European Association of Studies of Science and Technology, 25-28 July, Lancaster UK

The IPCC is a fascinating institutional puzzle. Despite its gruelling mission (maintaining a dialogue on climate change between the academic community and world governments), the IPCC have prospered for three decades and five assessment cycles. In thirty years, the organisation has thrived under all respects: and established itself as the interface between scientific research and diplomatic negotiations. Most amazingly, such expansion has not been accompanied by an institutional hardening of its organisation. The IPCC remains “network organisation” with no permanent organs and no lifelong employees (apart from a small Secretariat). Rather than on a professional bureaucracy, the IPCC has based its success on a vast and complex system of practices and procedures that facilitate the net-work of its contributors. To shed lights on this network architecture, we build a database containing the names, the roles, the national and institutional affiliations of all the individuals who have contributed to the IPCC. In this presentation, we discuss a few preliminary and exploratory visualisations extracted from the analysis of such dataset.

Download the slides of the presentation

Confessions of a Fake News Scholar

Tommaso Venturini (2018). Confession of a Fake News Scholar (or “on to study popular subject). 68th Annual Conference – International Communication Association, Prague, 24-28 May 2018

Should we talk about “fake news”? According to several observers, we shouldn’t as this notion is vague, politically dangerous; indistinguishable from past misinformation; charged with a simplistic idea of truth, and missing the most important feature of the phenomenon it defines. Such feature is not deceptiveness, but virality – the capacity to pollute media public debate by spreading and transforming. But if virality is the defining features of fake news, then isn’t their critique another way of propagating the infection? Yes and no. Yes, if we stop at the critique. No, if we exploit it to encourage a media inquiry. Because of its simplicity, exaggeration, diffusion, rapid reproduction and mutation, fake news may be the drosophila of media studies.

Download the full paper

Download the slides of my presentation

Doing Networks Other than with Mathematics

On the October 27th 2017, I was invited to give the keynote lecture for the Digital Humanities Day of the University of Groningen. Here is the abstract of my talk:

Networks are, no doubt, powerful mathematical objects. But there is more to networks then the properties of their adjacency matrix. Networks are also rich visual diagrams and engaging narrative devices. In this keynote, we will discuss these often-neglected properties and we will propose a few practical ways to explore network visually and to elicit the stories that they contain.

See the slides of my presentation

4S-EASST Conference


This year (2016) I intervened at the 4S-EASST Conference with two different presentations:

1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde IPCC and the Double Logic of International Expertise
See the slides

2. Actor‐Network Theory VS Network Analysis VS Digital Networks Are We Talking About the Same Networks?
See the slides
Read the paper

DMI Summer School 2016


Dancing Together: the Fluidification of the Modern Mind

The keynote presentation that I gave at the 2016 edition of the Amsterdam Digital Methods Initiative Summer School. The talk address the question of social modelling and proposed to replace the current ‘spatial approach’ (based on the divide in micro and macro levels) with a natively temporal approach.

See the slides of my presentation

Hyphe, a Curation-Oriented Approach to Web Crawling


Jacomy, Mathieu; Girard, Paul; Ooghe-Tabanou, Benjamin; Venturini, Tommaso (2016). Hyphe, a Curation-Oriented Approach to Web Crawling for the Social Sciences. International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media.

A paper and a poster on the functioning of Hyphe, the Web crawler developed by the médialab, and the conceptual principles behind it.

Read the paper online

Download the paper

Download the poster

Contropedia, and the question of analytically separating the medium and the message


My presentation of the Contropedia project at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, at the occasion of the award of the Erasmus prize to the Wikipedia Community

See the slides of the presentation

See the video of the lecture

A Tale of Two Cities: Controversy Mapping and Issue Mapping (and any subtle differences)

The presentation I gave at the Digital Methods Initiative Summer School for the launch of the book Issue Mapping for an Ageing Europe by Richard Rogers, Natalia Sanchez and Aleksandra Kil.

See the slides of the presentation

Medusa at the Hairdresser


The conference I gave at the SPRU Freeman Friday Seminars at the University of Sussex on March 27 2015 (stirring quite a bit of controversy…).

In the last few years, our societies have been confronted to a new kind of problems. Our planet – once so vast and unexplored – seems to have shrunk around us constraining our actions with its multiple ecological and economical fragilities. Welcome to the Anthropocene! After centuries spent in trying to rule the world, we suddenly realize how tiny is our kingdom and, as the air fill with CO2, how suffocating is its atmosphere. What’s worse, we find ourselves utterly unprepared to deal with the situation we have created. The more we strive to force the knots we tied, the more they seem to tighten around us. The knots that hold us cannot be slashed, but (and it’s our only hope) they might be untied. The fabric of our natural and social interdependencies is complex, but not impenetrable. And this is where social sciences may help, by hijacking one of the strongest forces of modernization (the proliferation of digital inscriptions) and turning it into a source of understanding. Turning inscriptions into traces, and following them as threads through the maze of collective life, we can try to unfold the complexity of our small world and learn to live with it.

See the slides of the conference

Understanding Climate Negotiations Controversies


A introduction to the twists and turns of the climate negotiations and to the datasets that can be used to cover them that I gave to a little crowd of data-journalists from several French news outlets.

See the website of the event

See the presentations of the project developed by the participants

Climaps at Europeana 2015


The presentation I gave of EMAPS and its online-atlas at at Europeana 2015 (one of the largest tech conference in Digital Humanities).

See the slides of the presentation

Keynote speech at the Digitale Praxen conference at Frankfurt University


A keynote speech I delivered on 20/02/15 at the ‘Digital Practices’ conference organized by the group “digitization in everyday life” of the German Society of Folklore. In the speech, I discuss four misunderstandings often connected to use of digital traces:
1. Digital traces are not social data
2. Quantity counts less than variety
3. Digital does not mean automatic
4. More quantification demands more qualification
I also try to show than when these misunderstandings are avoided, digital methods can renew the vision of social sciences and help them to overcome the classic divide between qualitative and quantitative methods.

See the video

See the slides

What is a social border? On Continuity and Density in the Social Sciences


A conference I gave at the Kings’s College doctoral school with Mathieu Jacomy on the notion of social border and the advantage of adding continuity in social research through digital navigation.

See the slides of the conference

Escaping the Great Divide


A long conference and a workshop that I gave (with Paul Girard) at the University of Coimbra in the framework of the project “The Importance of Being Digital”. The theme of the conference was how digital methods help overcome several classic binary oppositions of traditional social sciences.

See the slides of the conference

See the web page of the workshop

Cartografia de Controversias


A week-long intensive course in controversy mapping that I gave at the Medialab of the Universitade Federale de Rio de Janeiro

See the video of the introductory conference

From Before the Cradle: mapping online debates on c-section and family planning


A presentation that I gave at the AFSP (Association Française de Sciences Politiques) congress. The presentation describe and discuss a medium-size example of digital methods research: a digital cartography project on c-section and family planning that the médialab is carrying out for the World Health Organisation in collaboration with Density Design Milan.

See the slides of the presentation

Mapping Connections with Heatmaps


A conference I gave at the Amsterdam Digital Methods Summer School. It presents Heatgraph a new tool of the médialab using the example of the article “Intangible Cultural Heritage Webs: comparing national networks with digital methods”.

See the slides of the conference

Use the tool

Download the preprint of the article

Changing Focal Length


An introduction to digital methods and their impacts on social sciences.

I have been invited to give this conference at the  Bibliothèque nationale de France during the seminar “Cartographies de l’invisible Art, réseau, big data” (18/04/13)

See the slides of the conference

Journal of Digital Social Sciences


Whether scientific communities will benefit from digitalization depends largely on their capability to understand and profit from the dynamics of the web. As long as online journals will remain the mere transposition of their paper counterparts, their interest will be limited to practical advantages. Though important, such advantages are only the smallest part of the revolution that online scientific publishing may yield if it succeeds in harnessing the full potential of digital networks. For digitalization to be a real step forward, innovative forms of digital publishing should be envisioned. This proposal is meant to discuss new forms of scientific publication and to imagine what an online platform for the publishing of digital social sciences may look like.

This conference has been given at the Just-In-Time Sociology workshop (EPFL Lausanne, 04/12/12).

Watch the video of the conference
See the slides of the conference

Designing Controversies for the Public


A conference on how to engage the publics of sociotechnical controversies in the effort of controversy mapping.

I have been invited to give this conference at the 2012 4S conference on Science and Technology Studies (Copenhague – 18/10/12), at the ‘Tactics of Issue Mapping’ seminar of Goldsmith University (London – 26/10/12), at the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam (17/04/13) and at the Ecsite Conference on science centres and museums (Gothenburg – 08/06/13).

See the slides of the conference

Visual Network Analysis


In the last few decades, networks acquired a new set of affordances and reached a larger audience, thanks to the growing availability of tools to design them. Drawn on paper or screen, networks become easier to handle and obtain properties that calculation cannot express. Far from being merely aesthetic, the graphical representation of networks has an intrinsic hermeneutic value. Networks become maps and can be read as such. Yet the visualization of networks has so far lacked of reflexivity and formalization. We designed and read networks as if their visual grammar was obvious, but the more we advance, the more we realize that this is not the case. This conference contributes to such reflection and proposes a tentative framework for the visual analysis of networks.

I have been invited to give this conference as an introductory Paris ThatCamp of Digital Humanities (24/10/12)

See the slides of the Conference
See an example of Visual Network Analysis

Why We Love Networks


A conference on the affordances of networks (as graphs, maps and interface) and their potential to exploit digital traces and provide the first example of what quali-quantitative methods for social sciences could be.

I have been invited to give this lecture at the  Ecole de Recherche Graphique de école supérieure des arts à Bruxelles (03/07/12)

Watch the video of the conference at the ERG of Bruxelles
See the slides of the conference

Communicating Controversies


Together with A. Lorenzet, I have organize a session on “Debating Environmental Controversies” at the Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference in Florence (18-20/04/12). In this session I gave a conference on the different types of communication of controversial issues.

Each controversy is a word apart and its specificity deserves an ad hoc communication strategy. A few ‘controversies families’ can however be identified. In this presentation I present three different types of controversies and their correspondent communication approaches. To do so, I draw on the climate change controversies showing how they clusters around three questions generating three different types of controversies: is global warming occurring and are we responsible? How do we mitigate global warming effects? How do we adapt to global warming?

See the slides of the conference

Follow the White Rabbit


An introductory controversy linking together controversy mapping and digital methods and explaining why the work well together.

This conference has been given at the Sociology Department of the Copenhagen University (04/03/12)

See the slides of the conference

Second Degree Objectivity


One of the most intriguing notions developed by Bruno Latour as a part of his ‘controversy mapping’ approach is the idea of second-degree objectivity. ‘Second-degree objectivity’ is an objectivity obtained by the multiplication of different viewpoints; an objectivity that comes from diversity rather than from uniformity; an impartiality that comes from exploring a multitude of partial bias, rather than abstracting from them.

I have been invited to give this conference at the Visualizing Knowledge Controversies Symposium at the University of Oxford (21/01/12) and at the Social Sciences and Web2 workshop at La Cantine (Paris, 04/04/12).

See the slides of the conference

Welcome to Flatland (Against Emergence)


A conference discussing the concept of ’emergence’ in social sciences and its connection to the methodological distinction between qualitative and quantitative research techniques. In the conference, I argue that digital traceability, providing the possibility to envision a new generation of truly quali-quantitative methods, allows to overcome the opposition between micro-interactions and macro-structures and move toward a ‘flat’ (yet not homogeneous) vision of the social.

I have given this conference at “The Unexpected Conference: do human beings behave as atoms” (CREA Paris, 16/11/11) and at the seminar “Réseaux sociaux : des structures à la politique” (IXXI Lyon, 12/12/11).

See the slides of the conference