A Field Guide to Fake News

Pleased to announce a new project to create “A Field Guide to Fake News”, led by Liliana BounegruJonathan Gray and myself.

In the wake of concerns about the role of “fake news” in relation to the US elections, the project aims to catalyse collaborations between digital media researchers, data journalists and civil society groups. The guide will be the first project of the Public Data Lab – an interdisciplinary network seeking to facilitate research, democratic engagement and public debate around the future of the data society – in collaboration with the First Draft Coalition.

The guide will be launched at the International Journalism Festival in April 2017 and it will look at how digital methods can be utilised to increase public understanding of the politics, production, circulation and responses to fake news online.

If you’re interested in collaborating to the project, refer to the Call for Collaborators.


From Analysis to Presentation

Boechat, Marina, and Tommaso Venturini. 2016. “From Analysis to Presentation: Information Visualization for Reifying Issues and Reenacting Insights in Visual Data Analysis.” Les Cahiers Du Numérique 4: 185–205. doi:10.3166/LCN.12.4.185-204.

In this paper, we discuss the use of information visualization in digital sociology, (particularly in Controversy Mapping), and its role in outlining issues and objects of study through progressive insights. We believe the differences in visualizations between analysis and presentation are better understood as linked by a chain of transformations, rather than as two separate and stable levels of representation. We propose that, through such chain, two research movements are performed: the reification of issues, related to the construction of a stable consensus, and the reenaction of insights, that points to the role of visualizations as communication tools. We will illustrate such movements and effects by using a few examples of visualizations produced in the EMAPS research project.

Read the preprint version of the paper

INRIA Advanced Research Fellowship


Starting from January 2017 and for three years, I will be the recipient of an advanced research fellowship of INRIA (the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation) and work on social modelling at the Institut des Systèmes Complexes Rhône-Alpes.

Read my research project

HDR (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches)


Controversy Mapping, a Travel Companion
HDR in media studies (CNU 71), defended and obtained on 26/09/2016
by Tommaso Venturini (under the Supervision of Pablo Jensen, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon)
Jury: Richard Rogers, Dominique Pestre, Didier Bigo, Eric Fleury, Dominique Vinck

Since my arrival at the médialab of Sciences Po, 6 years ago, my research path has not been straight. Following the projects that I led (EMAPS, MEDEA) and to which I have participated (MACOSPOL, Contropedia, SOURCE, DIME-SHS Web, Politiques de la Terre, AIME…), it has zigzagged through disciplines and traditions and brought me in contact with various epistemic communities, including STS; digital methods; complex network analysis; environmental politics; information design; media studies; natural language processing and more.

In all these encounters, what interested me has been the chance to run experiments, test unusual mixes, try new approaches to the study of collective life. Orthodoxy and faultlessness, I confess, have never been my greatest preoccupations.

Yet, my experiments have not been inconsistent. Traveling far lands, I did not just sightsee. I collected bits and pieces and stitched them together in an ensemble that starts to look (to me at least) more and more coherent. Such coherence, of course, is not straightforward. It is tentative, in progress and, too often, implicit. My HDR thesis provides a much-welcomed occasion to address such coherence explicitly and to do it through a comprehensive account of what Controversy Mapping is to me.

It is CM that brought me to the médialab, it is the course I have been teaching the last 8 years and the approach that supported most of my projects. CM is also a method with a solid tradition and an upward trajectory, increasingly used around the world for teaching and research. Yet, CM still lacks its instruction manual – a text that would distill its unusual brew of STS reflections and digital developments. My HDR thesis is an effort in this direction.

Contrasting medium and genre on Wikipedia to open up Geoengineering


Markusson, Nils, Tommaso Venturini, Andreas Kaltenbrunner, and David Laniado. 2016. “Contrasting Medium and Genre on Wikipedia to Open up Geoengineering.” Big Data & Society 3(2).

An investigation of the place of geoengineering in public debate through the study of networks of Wikipedia pages.

Read the article online

Download the article

Data-Sprint: a Public Approach to Digital Research


Venturini, T., Munk, A., & Meunier, A. (2016). Data-Sprint: a Public Approach to Digital Research. (C. Lury, P. Clough, M. Michael, R. Fensham, S. Lammes, A. Last, & E. Uprichard, Eds.) Interdisciplinary Research Methods (forthcoming).

This paper is about the politics of transdisciplinarity. Not in the sense of the research politics fostering collaboration across disciplines, but in the stronger sense of transcending disciplinary boundaries to make significant political contributions. In short: it is about the making research public. Also, this chapter is not theoretical: it discusses the role of social sciences in collective life, but only to introduce (through a concrete example) an original transdisciplinary practice, that we call data-sprinting.

Read the pre-print version of the paper

How to Tell Stories with Networks: Exploring the Narrative Affordances of Graphs with the Iliad


Venturini, T., Bounegru, L., Jacomy, M., & Gray, J. (2016). How to Tell Stories with Networks: Exploring the Narrative Affordances of Graphs with the Iliad. In Datafied Society. Amsterdam: University Press (forthcoming).

The preview of the pre-print version of a chapter for the Datafied Society book that I wrote with Liliana Bounegru, Mathieu Jacomy and Jonathan Gray.

It use the network of the characters of Homer’s Iliad to exemplify six different types of stories that can be told about a graph.

Read the pre-print version

EMAPS wins the Etoiles d’Europe prize

Happy to announce that the project EMAPS has won the prize Etoiles d’Europe celebrating the best EU financed research project.

See Climaps.eu the platform developed by EMAPS.

Read an interview about the prize.

Climate Negotiations Browser


On the eve of the UNFCCC COP21, I am proud to introduce our new platform on climate negotiations,

I have worked for more of one year to this platform with the help of the IISD, the médialab of Sciences Po, the LSIR EPFL and the Atelier Iceberg. The platform allows to browse through the contents of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin and contains two interfaces:
– The discover interface providing a few visualizations on the visibility of actors and issues of the UNFCCC negotiations
The explore interface allowing to ask complex questions such as: “give me all the ENB sections in which AOSIS discuss about Loss and Damage after Warsaw

More info here: http://www.medialab.sciences-po.fr/?p=3477

Visual Network Analysis


Venturini, T., Jacomy, M, De Carvalho Pereira, D. Visual Network Analysis (working paper)

The visualization of networks has so far lacked of reflexivity and formalization. Though all network analysis packages propose rich libraries of visualization functions, most literature on networks analysis is still centered on mathematical metrics and does not detail how to read visualized network. We painfully lack the conceptual tools to think about the projection of graphs in the space.  This paper means to contribute to such reflection and propose a tentative framework for the visual analysis of networks. To do so we will draw on the visual semiotics of Jacques Bertin (1967) and in particular on three of its variables: positions, size and hue. The papers is divided in three sections, each addressing one of the three variables. Each section will explain how to project one variable on networks and provide guidance on how to make sense of the resulting image.


Download the working paper

Designing Controversies and their Publics


Venturini, T., Ricci, D., Mauri, M., Kimbell, L., & Meunier, A. (2015). Designing Controversies and their Publics. Design Issues, 31(3)

Striving to make the intricacy of scientific debate readable for a larger public, controversy mapping is trapped in a classic simplicity/complexity trade-­off: how to respect the richness of controversies without designing maps too complicated to be useful? Having worked on the question for almost two years in a project bringing together social scientists and designers (emapsproject.com1), we can now propose a way out of this contradiction and suggest three ways of moving through the simplicity/complexity continuum.

Dowload the preprint

Watch a conference I gave on the topic at the University of Leuven

Actor-Network VS Network Analysis VS Digital Networks Are We Talking About the Same Networks?


Venturini, T., Munk, A., & Jacomy, M. (2016). Actor-Network VS Network Analysis VS Digital Networks Are We Talking About the Same Networks? In D. Ribes & J. Vertesi (Eds.), DigitalSTS: A Handbook and Fieldguide (forthcoming).

A paper that I wrote with Anders Munk and Mathieu Jacomy for the forthcoming Handbook of Digital STS. It addresses the thorny question of the ambiguity of the word ‘network’

Read the working version of the paper

Fill in the Gap. A New Alliance for Social and Natural Sciences


Venturini, T., Jensen, P., & Latour, B. (2015). Fill in the Gap: A New Alliance for Social and Natural Sciences. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 18(2), 11.

In the last few years, electronic media brought a revolution in the traceability of social phenomena. As particles in a bubble chamber, social trajectories leave digital trails that can be analyzed to gain a deeper understanding of collective life. To make sense of these traces a renewed collaboration between social and natural scientists is needed. In this paper, we claim that current research strategies based on micro-macro models are unfit to unfold the complexity of collective existence and that the priority should instead be the development of new formal tools to exploit the richness of digital data.

The paper has scored #1 in the most viewed JASSS articles for over 8 weeks!

Read the paper in the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulations

Download the preprint

Méthodes digitales: Approches quali/quanti des données numériques


Venturini, T., Cardon, D., & Cointet, J.-P. (2015). Méthodes digitales: Approches quali/quanti des données numériques – Présentation du numéro spécial. Réseaux, 188, 9. doi:10.3917/res.188.0009

The special issue on digital and quali-quantitative methods that I curated with Jean-Philippe Cointet et Dominique Cardon for the French journal Réseaux.

Day after day new methods appear in the social sciences eroding the classical dichotomy between qualitative and quantitative approaches, circulating between micro and macro, local and global, and allowing researchers to process large amounts of data without sacrificing the thickness of their analysis. These are the experiences gathered in this issue, without exclusion of disciplines, objects or approaches.

Read the introduction to the volume

Read the papers of the special issue

Three Maps and Three Misunderstandings : A Digital Mapping of Climate Diplomacy


Venturini, T., Baya-laffite, N., Cointet, J., Gray, I., Zabban, V., & De Pryck, K. (2014). Three Maps and Three Misunderstandings : A Digital Mapping of Climate Diplomacy. Big Data & Society, 1:1

This article proposes an original analysis of the international debate on climate change through the use of digital methods. Its originality is twofold. First, it examines a corpus of reports covering 18 years of international climate negotiations, a dataset never explored before through digital techniques. Second, in this paper we test an original approach to text analysis that combines automatic extractions and manual selection of the key issue-terms. The originality of our corpus and of our approach encouraged us to question some of the habits of digital research and confront three common misunderstandings about digital methods.

Download the full text 
Read the article online
See the images at hi-resolution

ForceAtlas2, a Continuous Graph Layout Algorithm for Handy Network Visualization


Jacomy, M., Venturini, T., Heyman, S. & Bastian, M. (2014). ForceAtlas2, a Continuous Graph Layout Algorithm for Handy Network Visualization Designed for the Gephi Software. PlosONE, 9:6

Gephi is a network visualization software used in various disciplines (social network analysis, biology, genomics…). One of its key features is the ability to display the spatialization process, aiming at transforming the network into a map, and ForceAtlas2 is its default layout algorithm. We lay out its complete functioning for the users who need a precise understanding of its behaviour, from the formulas to graphic illustration of the result. We propose a benchmark for our compromise between performance and quality. We also explain why we integrated its various features and discuss our design choices.

Download the full text 
Read the article online in PlosONE

Climaps by EMAPS, A Global Issue Atlas of Climate Change Adaptation


Climaps.eu presents the results of the EU research project EMAPS, as well as its process: an experiment to use computation and visualization to harness the increasing availability of digital data and mobilize it for public debate. To do so, EMAPS gathered a team of social and data scientists, climate experts and information designers. It also reached out beyond the walls of Academia and engaged with the actors of the climate debate.

Climaps.eu is an online atlas providing data, visualizations and commentaries about climate adaptation debate. It contains 33 issue-maps and 5 issue-stories guiding the users in the combined reading of several maps. The atlas is addressed to climate experts (negotiators, NGOs and companies concerned by global warming, journalists…) and to citizens willing to engage with the issues of climate adaptation. It employs advanced digital methods to deploy the complexity of the issues related to climate adaptation and information design to make this complexity legible.

See the Climaps Online Atlas

See the Summary for Policy Maker of the Project on the Social Sciences Research Network

Intangible Cultural Heritage Webs: comparing national networks with digital methods


Severo, M., & Venturini, T. (2013). Intangible Cultural Heritage: Webs Comparing national networks with digital methods. New Media and Society, (forthcoming), 1–20. doi:10.1177/1461444814567981

The 2003 Unesco Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is addressed to States and assigns them several tasks. No State, however, can accomplish all these tasks without mobilizing a wide network of institutions, associations and individuals. The national ICH policies intersect, overlap and often transform the existing relationships among these actors. This paper aims at comparing several national networks (France, Italy, Switzerland) involved in the implementation of the 2003 Unesco Convention in order to highlight national trends and specificities. The analysis will employ an innovative methodology based on digital methods and aimed at exploring the landscapes of websites dedicated to the intangible heritage. Analyzing the hyperlinking strategies of ICH actors, we will identify the specific web topology of each nation, showing which actors are central and peripheral, whether clusters or cliques are formed and who plays the roles of authority and hub.

Download the preprint

See the article in the journal website

See the images at hi-resolution

Contropedia (Controversy Mapping in Wikipedia)


Funded by the Network of Excellence in Internet Science (EINS) in the call “Disruptive ideas for an Internet Science”, Contropedia aims to build a platform for the real-time analysis and visualization of controversies in Wikipedia. Controversy metrics will be extracted from the activity streams generated by edits to, and discussions about, individual articles and groups of related articles.
In this project, I coordinate the médialab team and provide advice on the rational of controversy mapping.

See the project website

Watch a video presenting Contropedia

Controversy Mapping Syllabus


The syllabus of the two controversy mapping course I will teach at Sciences Po

PSIA (Paris School of International Affairs)

SCUBE (double licence en sciences et sciences sociales)

ASP The Construction of Innovation Networks


In 2012 and 2013, I have been responsible for organizing the module on Innovation Networks at the the Alta Scuola Politecnica gathering the 150 best students of the Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino. In a week-long intensive workshop, the students learn about Science and Technology Studies and Digital Methods perform the analysis of an innovation network.

See one of the lessons that I have given at ASP

Des Migrants et des Mots


Venturini, T., Gemenne, F., & Severo, M. (2013). Des Migrants et des Mots. Une analyse numérique des débats médiatiques sur les migrations et l’environnement. Cultures & Conflits, 88(4).

Though environmental degradations appear today as a major driver of migration flows, the debate about the definition of the relationship between environment and migration remains vivid. In public debates, many terms exist to qualify those who have to migrate because of environmental disruptions: this has lead to controversies surrounding the use of these different terms. This article attempts to document this controversy through a study of the different uses of these terms in public debates online.

Download the preprint



The FORCCAST (Formation à la Cartographie des Controverses pour l’Analise de Sciences et de Techniques) project is meant to develop and disseminate the teaching method of controversy mapping. The project has received a 8 years funding by the French Government and gathers a growing consortium of national and international universities.

In the project FORCCAST, I am responsible for the coordination of the Axis 1, on the exploration of techno-scientific controversies.

See the project website

The Whole is Always Smaller Than Its Parts


Latour, B., Jensen, P., Venturini, T., Grauwin, S., & Boullier, D. (2012). “The Whole is Always Smaller Than Its Parts” A Digital Test of Gabriel Tarde’s Monads. British Journal of Sociology, 63(4), 591–615.

In this paper we argue that the new availability of digital data sets allows to revisit Gabriel Tarde’s social theory that entirely dispensed
with using notions such as individual or society. By navigating datasets without making the distinction between the level of individual component and that of aggregated structure, it becomes possible to give some credibility to Tarde’s strange notion of ‘monads’.

Download the preprint
Télécharger le preprint en français

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

Once Upon a Text: an ANT Tale in Text Analysis



Venturini, T., & Guido, D. (2012). Once Upon a Text : an ANT Tale in Text Analysis. Sociologica, 3. doi:10.2383/72700

ANTA or Actor-­‐Network Analyzer is a simple piece of software developed at Sciences Po médialab to offer social researchers a simple text-­‐analysis tool attuned with the theoretical tenets of actor-­‐network theory. Striving to make actor-­‐network theory compatible with modern text-­‐analysis, we have learned much about both. In this paper we’ll discuss our adventure in ANT and text-­‐analysis while describing the basic functions of ANTA and providing examples of its usage.

Download the  pre-print

Controversy Mapping


Among other things, at Sciences Po I am responsible for coordinating and teaching the courses of Controversy Mapping. Controversy Mapping has been invented by Bruno Latour some twenty years ago as as a method to train students in the observation and description of sociotechnical debates. Since then, the method has evolved considerably and has been implemented by several universities all around the World (Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, Manchester, Amsterdam, Liège, Lausanne, Padova, Trento, Buenos Aires…).

See the archive of the best work of the students of the course

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

MEDEA (Mapping Environmental Debates on Adaptation)

To contribute to understanding the challenges raised by climate change and complement the EMAPS project, MEDEA  is meant develop an online toolkit to map the environmental debate in France. Financed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (CEP&S call), MEDEA starts under my coordination on November 1st 2011.

Download the project
See the project website

EMAPS (Electronic Maps to Assist Public Science)

picture of a melting glacier
What difference does it makes to be equipped with online tools for mapping technoscientific issues? Can such equipment improve the way we publicly discuss science and technology?

To answer such questions, Bruno Latour and I submitted EMAPS to the EU ‘Science in Society’ call.  Focusing on the web as a tool of collective endeavor, EMAPS aims at engaging the actors involved in climate adaptation debate in an ‘open-air’ experiment on the interactive platform developed within the project. Funded by the European Union Commission, the project starts on November first 2011.

Click here to download the project
See the project website

The Social Fabric: Digital Traces and Quali-quantitative Methods

Venturini, T. & Latour, B. (2010).“The Social Fabric: Digital Traces and Quali-quantitative Methods”. Proceedings of Future En Seine.

An article I wrote with Bruno Latour on quali-quantitative methods and digital sociology.

Download the preprint here (English)
Version Française

Diving in Magma: How to Explore Controversies with Actor-Network Theory

Venturini, T. (2010). Diving in magma: how to explore controversies with actor-network theory. Public Understanding of Science, 19(3), 258–273. doi:10.1177/0963662509102694

The cartography of controversies is a set of techniques to explore and visualize issues. It was developed by Bruno Latour as a didactic version of Actor- Network Theory to train college students in the investigation of contemporary socio-technical debate. The scope and interest of such cartography, however, exceed its didactic origin. Adopted and developed in several universities in Europe and the US, the cartography of controversies is today a full research method, though, unfortunately, not a much documented one. To fill this lack of documentation, we draw on our experience as Latour’s teaching assistant, to introduce some of the main techniques of the social cartographer toolkit. In particular, in these pages we will focus on exploration, leaving the discussion of visualization tools to a further paper.

Click here to download the preprint.

Building on Faults: How to Represent Controversies with Digital Methods


Venturini, T. (2012). Building on faults: how to represent controversies with digital methods. Public Understanding of Science, 21(7), 796 – 812. doi:10.1177/0963662510387558.

In this article, I will discuss how to render the complexity of controversiesvthrough an original visualization device: the controversy- website. Capitalizing on the potential of digital technologies, the controversy-website has been developed as a multilayered toolkit to trace and aggregate information on public debates.

Click here to download the preprint.

Sciences Po médialab


Since its foundation in 2009, I have coordinated the research activities of médialab of Sciences Po.

Created by Bruno Latour, the médialab is a laboratory dedicated to digital research. It is a team of specialists bringing together social scientists, engineers and designers. It is a high- tech facility, a hub for vanguard research, a scientific toolkit and a platform for launching national and international collaborations. The médialab’s project has received an A+ evaluation by the French research evaluation Agency.

See the médialab website

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent The discontinuity effect of explicit media


Venturini, T. (2007). Verba Volant, Scripta Manent: The Discontinuity Effect of Explicit Media. American Behavioral Scientist50(7), 879–896. doi:10.1177/0002764206298313

It is commonly recognized that different social configurations tend to be associated with different types of innovation. Not surprisingly, linear innovations are more likely to be produced by communities of strong and homogeneous ties; while radical innovations are more likely to originate from networks of weak and diverse connections. Yet, there is a second and subtler linkage between social patterns and innovation types: a junction which depends on the nature of the media available to different groups. The key role is played by explicitness. Communities, being relatively homogeneous, can rely on implicit forms of communication, while networks require explicit channels and languages to relate their highly diverse components. This difference in media explicitness tends to produce a difference in innovation styles. According to the main hypothesis of this paper, the more explicit are the media available to a group, the more discontinuous and radical will be the innovation generated. The discontinuity effect of explicit media will be explained with examples drawn from the history of media and technologies and some empirical ground will be provided through the analysis of a much-discussed case of biopiracy.

Download the preprint