🎉 Welcome here, this is the first blog post! – Mathieu
I investigate our relation with tools in a context of social science and humanities, with a focus on networks and complexity.
Following the data deluge and the democratization of digital tools, networks became a part of the scholar’s toolbox for studying various phenomena. Multiple factors made this possible: a new object was invented (the “complex network”), graph theory successfully tackled hard challenges (eg. Google’s Page Rank and the “relevance” problem), and data visualization became accessible to non-specialists. As a co-founder of Gephi, a popular open source software for network analysis, I had the chance to witness the adoption of networks by a number of scholars. Now gradually transitioning from the role of engineer those of researcher, I aim at retracing the trajectory of the network as technology and intellectual object in the social sciences.
Despite being mainly epistemological by nature, this research agenda spreads across multiple fields. The algorithms used by digital devices play a crucial role (eg. assigning positions to the nodes of a network) and I discuss some of them from the double perspective of the designer (computer scientist) and user (social science scholar). Information design (data visualization) is another key topic that I approach sometimes as a computer scientist and sometimes as a practitioner, as the techniques and standard references are often imported from the industry (see for instance the “Information is Beautiful Awards”). Although sociology is not original field, I follow applications of digital instruments in two distinct areas, media studies (following trends in web mining and platform studies) and qualitative sociology (notably controversy mapping). Finally I often adopt the perspective of science and technologies studies to reflect on the role of these tools in the scholar’s practice, occasionally taking baby steps in history of sciences.
This research notebook is intended toward the users of digital technologies in social science and humanities who want to reflect on their effect on our practice and thought.