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

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.

Sprinting with Data


The presentation that I gave at the Symposium on “Evidence and the Politics of Policymaking” at the Institute for Policy Research of the University of Bath.

See the slides of my presentation

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.

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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.

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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.

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Narrating Networks: Exploring the Affordances of Networks as Storytelling Devices in Journalism


Bounegru, L., Venturini, T., Gray, J., & Jacomy, M. (2016). Narrating Networks: Exploring the Affordances of Networks as Storytelling Devices in Journalism. Digital Journalism, (forthcoming).

While the mathematical and analytical capabilities of networks have been extensively studied over the years, in this article we argue that the storytelling affordances of networks have been comparatively neglected. In order to address this we use multimodal analysis to examine the stories that networks evoke in a series of journalism articles. We discuss five different kinds of narrative readings of networks illustrated with analyses of examples from journalism.

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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.

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Detecting Global Bridges in Networks


Jensen, P., Morini, M., Marton, K., Venturini, T., Vespignani, A., Jacomy, M., … Fleury, E. (2016). Detecting global bridges in networks. Network Science.

The identification of nodes occupying important positions in a network structure is crucial for the understanding of the associated real-world system. Usually, betweenness centrality is used to evaluate a node capacity to connect different graph regions. However, we argue here that this measure is not adapted for that task, as it gives equal weight to “local” centers (i.e. nodes of high degree central to a single region) and to “global” bridges, which connect different communities. In this paper we propose a decomposition of betweenness centrality into two terms, one highlighting the local contributions and the other the global ones. We call the latter bridgeness centrality and show that it is capable to specifically spot out global bridges.

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O Todo é Sempre Menor que as Partes: um teste digital acerca das mônadas de Gabriel Tarde


Latour, B., Jensen, P., Boullier, D., Grauwin, S., & Venturini, T. (2015). O Todo é Sempre Menor que as Partes: um teste digital acerca das mônadas de Gabriel Tarde. Parágrafo, 2(3).

The Portuguese version of “The Whole is Always Smaller than the Sum of its Part”

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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.


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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.

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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

Scientometrics Landscape


A post I published on the blog of the Sciences Po médialab to present the technique of ‘scientometrics landscape’ that we are using to generate maps of the different meanings of CO2 for the ‘Politique de la Terre’ programme.

In the last decades, a humble chemical molecule has become one of the most important actors of modern collective life. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is increasingly used as a key marker for politics and economics both at the national and international level. The molecule has thus assumed a variety of different meanings according to who use its name. Chemists, biologists, geologists, soil scientists, physicists, climatologists, they all have different CO2 definitions. And their definitions differ from those of the economists, geo-politicians and NGOs and probably even more from the different representations that public opinion may have of the molecule. Instead of trying to average these definitions, we have tried to make these definitions comparable, using advanced techniques in visual scientometrics to disaggregated the CO2 cycle and transform it into a series of ‘CO2 geo-political maps’.

Read the post on the médialab website

Societal Controversies in Wikipedia Articles


Borra, E., Weltevrede, E., Ciuccarelli, P., Kaltenbrunner, A., Laniado, D., Magni, G., … Venturini, T. (2015). Societal Controversies in Wikipedia Articles. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI ’15 (pp. 193–196). doi:10.1145/2702123.2702436

Collaborative content creation inevitably reaches situations where different points of view lead to conflict. We focus on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia anyone may edit, where disputes about content in controversial articles often reflect larger societal debates. While Wikipedia has a public edit history and discussion section for every article, the substance of these sections is difficult to phantom for Wikipedia users interested in the development of an article and in locating which topics were most controversial. In this paper we present Contropedia, a tool that augments Wikipedia articles and gives insight into the development of controversial topics. Contropedia uses an efficient language agnostic measure based on the edit history that focuses on wiki links to easily identify which topics within a Wikipedia article have been most controversial and when.

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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

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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

Review of “An Aesthesia of Networks” by Anna Munster


My review of the excellent book by Anna Muster and networks and their aesthetics.

Read the review

Buy the book


Big Data and Society (editorial board)


An open access peer-reviewed scholarly journal on digital methods in the social sciences whose editorial board I sit in. Big Data and Society moves beyond usual notions of Big Data and treats it as an emerging field of practices that is not defined by but generative of (sometimes) novel data qualities such as high volume and granularity and complex analytics such as data linking and mining. It thus attends to digital content generated through online and offline practices in social, commercial, scientific, and government domains. This includes, for instance, content generated on the Internet through social media and search engines but also that which is generated in closed networks (commercial or government transactions) and open networks such as digital archives, open government and crowdsourced data. Critically, rather than settling on a definition the Journal makes this an object of interdisciplinary inquiries and debates explored through studies of a variety of topics and themes. BD&S seeks contributions that analyse Big Data practices and/or involve empirical engagements and experiments with innovative methods while also reflecting on the consequences for how societies are represented (epistemologies), realised (ontologies) and governed (politics).

See the blog of the Journal

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.

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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.

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Read the article online in PlosONE

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.

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See the article in the journal website

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Does television reflect the evolution of scientific knowledge?


Bourdaa, M., Konsman, J. P., Secail, C., Venturini, T., Veyrat-Masson, I., & Gonon, F. (2013). Does television reflect the evolution of scientific knowledge? The case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder coverage on French television. Public Understanding of Science. doi:10.1177/0963662513484842

Biomedical findings mature from uncertain observations to validated facts. Although subsequent studies often refute initial appealing findings, newspapers privilege the latter and often fail to cover refutations. Thus, biomedical knowledge and media reporting may diverge with time. Here we investigated how French television reported on three scientific questions relative to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) from 1995 to 2010.

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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.

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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’.

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Great expectations: méthodes quali-quantitative et analyse des réseaux sociaux


Venturini, T. (2012). Great expectations: méthodes quali-quantitative et analyse des réseaux sociaux. In J.-P. Fourmentraux (ed.), L’Ère Post-Media. Humanités digitales et Cultures numériques (pp. 39–51). Hermann: Paris.

This article discusses how digital traces can help social researchers to develop a new generation of quali-quantitative methods. It also introduces the computation, visualization and manipulation affordances of networks as graphs, maps and interfaces.

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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.

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HCI (Hypertext Corpus Initiative)

Venturini, T. (2011).“Hypertext Corpus Initiative, données hypertextuelles pour les sciences sociales”. In e-Dossier de l’audiovisuel Ina (forthcoming).

A short essay presenting the ideas behind the HCI project.

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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.

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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.

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Piccola introduzione alla cartografia della controversie


Venturini, T. (2008). Piccola introduzione alla cartografia delle controversie. Etnografia e ricerca qualitativa, 3, 369–394.

The cartography of controversies (cartografia delle controversies) is a collection of techniques to observe and describe social issues developed by Bruno Latour as an applied version of Actor-Network Theory. Originally, it was used to guide college students in the exploration of scientific and technological debates. The scope and interest of such cartography, however, exceed its didactic origin. Adopted in several universities and developed by a number of international projects, the cartography of controversies is today a full research methodology. In this article, we draw on our experience as Latour’s teaching assistant, to introduce some of the main ideas and techniques of the cartography of controversies.

Download the preprint (in Italian)

Les trous noirs de la Révolution Verte


Venturini, T. (2007). Les trous noirs de la Réevolution Verte. Décroissance & technique, 3.

This article describes the controversies stirred by the process of agricultural modernization in the so-called ‘green-revolution’

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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.

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Opera Aperta: Wikipedia e l’oralità secondaria



Venturini, T. (2006). Opera Aperta: Wikipedia e l’oralità secondaria. Magma, 4, 35–45.

In questo articolo si discuterà di Wikipedia, se ne analizzerà il modello comunicativo e si mostrerà come esso getti nuova luce sulla distinzione oralità/scrittura. Riflettendo sui processi e sui prodotti della mediazione comunicativa, illustreremo quindi come Wikipedia abbia dato vita a una forma di comunicazione davvero nuova. Un modello comunicativo caratterizzato da un’apertura radicale e totale che non può essere assimilata né all’oralità, né alla scrittura.

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Il mago e l’imprenditore magico


Venturini, T. (2005). Il mago e l’imprenditore magico. Cassazione Penale, 45(3).

Drawing on the legal case of an italian magician, this article discuss the difference between tradition and modern magic

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