Medialab stories: how to align actor network theory and digital methods

The history of laboratories may become controversial in social sciences. In this paper, the story of Sciences Po Médialab told by Venturini et al. is discussed and completed by demonstrating the incoherence in the choice of digital methods at the Médialab from the actor network theory perspective. As the Médialab mostly used web topologies as structural analysis of social positions, they were not able to account for the propagation of ideas, considered in actor network theory as non-humans that have their own agency. The main arguments in favour of the ‘more continuous social’ developed at the Médialab (quali-quanti, following the actors, zooming) proved to be as misleading as the network metaphor. The distribution of agency that actor network theory so successfully expands was paradoxicallty reduced to structures and individual preferences, to the detriment of the agency of replications that circulate entities in the form of messages, content or memes, and that should now become the next step for actor network theory-style digital methods.


Published in:
Big Data & Society, 5, 2, 1-13
Year:
Dec 12 2018
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 Record created 2018-12-13, last modified 2019-10-07

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