Studying Networked Publics through Social Media and Controversy Mapping
Studying Networked Publics
through Social Media and
Associate Professor Jean Burgess
Dr Theresa Sauter
NETWORKED PUBLICS AND THEIR ISSUES
American pragmatists: Dewey (The Public and Its Problems, 1927) and
Lippman (The Phantom Public, 1927)
“Issues spark a public into being” (Marres, 2005)
Latour: „an actor is nothing but a network‟ and „a network is nothing but its
actors‟ (2011: 800)
ANT – Tracing material and semiotic relations of heterogeneous elements to
see how they shape one another.
„Hot situations‟ (Callon, 1998); „matters of concern‟ (Latour, 2003);
„experimental events‟ (Stengers, 2005)
Tracing „an assemblage of actors jointly implicated in an issue … as a way
of finding out whether and how issue-networks may organize publics‟
(Marres and Rogers, 2005: 929).
• More data, more information, more experts, more issues.
• The „expansion of digitality‟ (Latour 2011: 802) - increased
complexity and new solutions.
• „Lively data‟ (Savage, 2013: 4)
• New voices, new publics, new issues, new tools.
• „Reassembling social science methods‟ (Ruppert et al., 2013)
• „Restructuring the study of social existence‟ (Rogers, 2004)
• Unite qual and quant, micro and macro, structure vs. agency
Exploring and visualising the complexities of a debate around a
contentious public issue.
• ANT and STS
• relational, dynamic, democratic, productive.
• provide insights into the dimensions of a social phenomenon.
• Controversies uncover “the state of an issue and the state of its
public” (Marres and Rogers, 2005: 928), and generate opportunities for
new knowledge production.
MACOSPOL (MApping COntroversies on Science for POLitics)
• To combine „the best research in science, technology and society‟ and
“the best research on web-based tools‟ to build a „web-based platform
to help the exploration and mapping of scientific controversies‟
CONNECTING SOCIAL MEDIA
• Everyday experience &
• Role of emotion and affect
• Proliferation of
voices, objects, actors
• Proxy access to media
ecology around existing
• Early identification of
HASHTAG AS HYBRID FORUM
CONTRIBUTIONS & CHALLENGES
• Existing methods: Identification and exploration of issues and
Levels of activity
Identification of themes, discourses
Actors and their relationships
Key media resources and websites
Accounting for the materiality of platforms
• Methodological challenges:
Issue boundary & data access
„Quanti-quali‟/data-driven ethnographic approaches
Visualisation, public communication & intervention