Mapping of the Disputes. Bruno Latour

By Israel González and Rubén Crespo [students of Sociology at the UNED]


Cartografía de las Controversias. Bruno Latour

MAPPING CONTROVERSIES (Mapping Controversies is a website dedicated to students and researchers working in controversies in science and technology. It has been designed as part of the project MACOSPOL (Mapping controversies in science and technology for politics), a project of the EU. This collaboration platform has been created with didactic purposes by the consortium DEMOSCIENCE for students.

The pioneer of this innovative teaching material was Bruno Latour in ENSMP, which then, later, he joined Sciences-Po and at MIT. Bruno Latour is a philosopher, a sociologist of science and French anthropologist, specialist in studies of science, technology and society and one of the main referents of the Theory of the Actor-Network. (See brief biography of Bruno Latour). At the end of this post, we’ve included a few videos where Bruno Latour presents these tools and exposes a particular case.

The Cartography of Controversies is a set of techniques to observe and describe social issues developed by Bruno Latour as an applied Actor-Network Theory. Originally, it was used to guide the college students in the exploration of the debates in science and technology. The scope and the interest of such a mapping, however, exceeds its source teaching. Adopted at several universities and developed by a number of international projects, the cartography of controversies is today a research methodology full. (See a short introduction to the cartography of controversies by Tommaso Venturini, assistant professor of Latour).


An example of dispute could be the electoral law or the problems that gives to have an abortion; that is to say, what is at stake in a particular context, and which actors are involved as well as the positions or perspectives of such actors with respect to the dispute in question. Before the political controversy Latour invites us to map through the Social Network perspective of all the actors, their interactions and the way in which these are connected. The idea is to create a map that represents and contains a wealth of information about the metapuntos of view of different actors in respect of the matter in question to, if possible, find the solution in a process of political negotiation. In turn, Latour suggest the use of qualitative and quantitative techniques of classic design and build a project of full research, that is, by making use of the analytical possibilities that technology offers us in symbiosis with the practices of social research that were already known, such as: focus groups, interviews, document analysis, surveys, etc

Currently the resources offered by the DEMOSCIENCE are used by MIT, Oxford University, Sciences-Po, Ecole des Mines, among other institutions. An example of the possibilities of the mapping it represents very well the study of Deb Roy on the learning of speech. This young scientist from MIT was able to observe as your child pronounced each word for the first time -in their context and precise time – thanks to a software that allows him to process and filter massive amounts of data. The context determines the learning, this we have been able to observe in three dimensions thanks to the processing of thousands of hours of recording of the learning process of the child of Roy in your own home, in a horizontal manner. A simple example graph that we can observe in the next video: 3-Word Mapping-TED (see also the program of Networks: Robots to know how we are).

Our opinion is that we can not ignore the possibilities of analysis offered by the Social Network in the Society-Network, as it is an invaluable resource to complete the classic analysis of the social structures. The technology can be made visible to the human eye and data structures impossible to detect with the methods and practices of research classic. The networks that we weave affect us directly and indirectly (friends of our friends influence our lives). As James says Fowler, to know who we are we must know how we are connected, how flows of emotional share, what information comes to us and what information we emit, what we are concerned about. We need to know which are our political controversies in contemplating all points of view and what solution can be given in case of absence of such possibility, whether for the purposes of the exercise we are connected efficiently, or, on the contrary, our networks could improve their efficiency with these objectives.

We believe that MAPPING CONTROVERSIES can be a good starting point for delving into the new techniques of research semi-qualitative (semi-quantitative), an exciting world that is becoming more and more present and it becomes even more important in the Network studies.

The original web of Bruno Latour is available in two versions: English and French. More recently, and with the support of Bruno Latour, Horacio Alperin has created brunolatourenespanol.orgwhich, thanks to its success, Horacio Alperin and George do Porto were able to create the platform GATHERING


Cartografía de las Controversias. Bruno Latour

Gathering is a meeting place for Latin american, Spanish and Portuguese that you try to be a model demócrático copy where it produces collective knowledge, experimental, resource by means of which grow out of events and equipment related to solve the problems of the collective involved.

It is a PROPOSITION of a meeting place (Gathering) for the scientists, artists, sociologists, philosophers and historians on the web, where individually or in groups presented PROPOSALS on the topics of interest [The PROPOSITION is one of the central principles of Gathering: “do it first ourselves before intending to others”].

Gathering: “The (Gatherings) gathering places are the translation that Heidegger used, to talk about these Things [Gegenstand (object, article, item, thing, matter, issue)], these websites capable of bringing together mortals and gods, humans and non-human.” [Bruno Latour. From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik – or Composing the Public Things* (Introduction to the catalogue of Making Things Public – Atmospheres of Democracy, MIT Press, 2005), edited by Bruno Latour & Peter Weibel].

It is a virtual space where ALL those involved in an issue or conflict discussed its solution. The theme is proposed from the involved by means of a PROPOSITION -based on a Mapping pre-, and runs through various instances, or process for discussion to be approved and institutionalized. The Audience participant is not only at the parliamentary compound in which are represented the respective bodies of Skills (scientists, politicians, moralists, economists, administrators, and diplomats), but also, the participation of all the involved and interested in the Proposition under discussion via the web.


“Its main quality is the continuation of the collective experience. It is this quality, the art of governing without a master, which depends on the civilization capable of ending the state of war.” “This is not a mode of ordinary assemblies, of closed places and concentrated, but rather of watershed basins, as numerous as the tributaries, as diverse as the rivers, as desgreñados like streams on a map.” [Bruno Latour. Politics of Nature.]
In Gathering, you can take courses of disputes. In the following link you can see a presentation of these courses: PRESENTATION OF the COURSE CARTOGRAPHY OF CONTROVERSIES – TERRITORIAL-URBAN (draft). Joint venture Gathering with the Diego Portales University – Chile.
Below are two videos where Bruno Latour introduces the tool and explains how to work with it. If you want to view the following videos with subtitles in Spanish, please visit the following link Videos of Bruno Latour’s Cartography of Controversies in Gathering.

Video: “Project-Demosciencia”

Mapping Controversies – The Demoscience Project from medialab Sciences Po on Vimeo.


Video : “Mapping Controversies in Science and Technology for Policy”

MACOSPOL Teaser-English Version from medialab Sciences Po on Vimeo.

Review carried out by Israel González and Rubén Crespo [students of Sociology at the UNED]

April 26, 2012

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