On Tommaso Venturini’s “Building on Faults”

Venturini, Tommaso. “Building on Faults: How to Represent Controversies with Digital Methods.” Public Understanding of Science. 21.7 (2012): 796-812. Web. 17 February 2013.

Summary: In this article, Venturini aims to explore and explain the method of presenting social controversies through what he refers to as a controversy-website.

keywords: controversies, cartography, actor-network theory, visualization, representation, controversy-website.

Claims I agree with:

“To be of any use, social maps have to be less confused and convoluted than collective disputes. They cannot just mirror the complexity of controversies: they have to make such complexity legible.” (797)
“Representing a controversy is like building on a seismic fault. To endure the shake of disputes, descriptions must be quakeproof.” (799)

Claims I disagree with:

“public debates (vaguely defined as situations where actors disagree ) constitute the best settings for observing the construction of social life.” (797)

Passages to keep:

“To trace a phenomenon means converting it into a piece of writing. This process (also known as ‘inscription’ or ‘formalization’) plays a pivotal role in modern science. No matter if you investigate nuclear forces, legal bindings or neural synapses, if you work within the framework of science, you will eventually deal with words, charts or numbers. This holds also for social sciences, whose rationale is to provide formalized accounts of collective phenomena.” (800)

“Yet, the enthusiasm for digital innovation should not prevent us from acknowledging four simple facts:
1. search engines are not the web;
2. the web is not the Internet;
3. the Internet is not the digital;
4. the digital is not the world.” (803)

“No controversy can be reduced to a binary opposition between two alternative viewpoints. Controversies always involve a plurality of different questions and only a few of these questions can be answered with a simple yes or no. The positions of actors in a controversy are always complicated and nuanced.” (805)

Sources to help read this article:

Venturini’s previous article in the same journal.

Actor-Network Theory in Plain English




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