ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Socio-informatics methods for the studies of public controversies

Francis Chateauraynaud, Josquin Debaz

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 4 - Law Building, Room 106
Date: 2012-07-11 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-17


In the last decade, the focus of Science and Technology Studies has shifted to public controversies in which science and technology are discussed or challenged by diverse actors, in order to produce new regulations and risk assessment processes.

To produce comparative analyses of a large range of issues, we have built socio-informatical tools designed for collecting, modelling and monitoring public affairs and controversies, by overcoming the classical divide between qualitative and quantitative analysis. The technologies conceived for the softwares called Prospéro and Marlowe share three key characteristics:
- They are founded on a qualitative and pragmatic approach of arguments and of actors. They require data-processing tools that are able to deal with the complexity of documents and to link the logico-linguistical analysis of statements to the more statistical analysis of large corpora.
- The main virtue of these techniques is to provide a long run perspective in order to monitor controversies and conflicts through time, as they develop, without defining a list of relevant documents in advance.
- A collection of case studies is generated dynamically by a network of robots and users; as well as building a memory of cases, this approach provides concepts and semantic grids transposable from one corpus to others.

Tracking numerous case studies in order to identify the similarities and differences in contentious processes, will enable us to construct a corpus database available for collective testing and comparisons. Sociological softwares Prospéro and Marlowe have been designed to equip the sociology of public controversies challenged by the rise of web-based productions. The main goal of socio-informatics is to provide instruments for analyzing the operations that persons and groups perform when they are engaged in controversial processes. Many examples will be taken from a huge comparative research, concerning GMOs, radioactive emergencies, asbestos health consequences, endocrine disruptors controversies, disputes around the future of nanotechnologies, shale gas fracturing ...

Chateauraynaud F. (2009) Public controversies and the Pragmatics of Protest. Toward a Ballistics of collective action. Text for the Culture Workshop, Harvard University.
Chateauraynaud F. (2010) All argumentative roads lead to Amsterdam …, Socio-informatique et argumentation
Chateauraynaud F. and Debaz J. (2010) The distribution of hypersentivity