Teaching Controversy Mapping

Controversy mapping

The aim of controversy mapping is to train students in exploring techno-scientific debates through the creative use of digital tools of analysis and representation. Between sociology and design, web-mining and social enquiry, the controversy mapping course is one of the most original and innovative courses of Sciences Po

The economic inequities, the environmental crises, the bioethical conundrums and all the issues troubling modern societies are imbroglios of politics, ethics and technologies impossible to disentangle. In these hybrid situations, public participation becomes more and more difficult. To navigate a world of uncertainties, future citizens need to be equipped with tools to explore and visualize the complexity of public debate. The purpose of mapping controversy is to contribute to the development of these tools through the creative use of digital technologies.

For a few examples of the works realized by the students of the controversy mapping course, see:
the archive of the controversy websites (http://controverses.sciences-po.fr/archiveindex/).

Introduced by Bruno Latour more than fifteen years ago, the cartography of controversies is currently taught in several European and American universities (Paris, Copenhagen, Milan, Manchester, Amsterdam, Liège, Lausanne, Dublin, Oslo, Padova, Trento, Cambridge, Mass., São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires…).

Characterized by a radically experimental approach, controversy mapping is developed through several research projects
– MACOSPOL (mapping controversies on science for politics) 2007-09
– MEDEA (mapping environmental debate on adaptation) 2011-14
– EMAPS (electronic maps to assist public science) 2011-14
– FORCCAST (formation à la cartographie des controverses pour l’analyse de sciences et des techniques) 2012-20
Download the syllabus of the course

The course team

Tommaso Venturini (responsible of the course)
tommaso.venturini@sciences-po.fr / 01 45 49 53 71 / médialab, Sciences Po, 13, rue de l’Université
Mathieu Jacomy (teaching assistant) / mathieu.jacomy@sciences-po.org
Thomas Tari (teaching assistant) / thomas.tari@univ-paris-est.fr
Axel Meunier (teaching assistant) / axel.meunier@sciences-po.fr
Nicolas Baya-Laffite (teaching assistant) / nicolas.bayalaffite@sciences-po.fr

The course in a nutshell

Understand the junction between science and society, observe it through the case study of a specific controversy and make the results of this analysis public.

Benefits for the students

  • To understand the junction between science and society and to be able to take a stance in a controversy.
  • To learn the exploration techniques of public debate in offline and online media.
  • To master traditional and digital methods of investigation.

Aims of the course

The most important task of the course is the analysis of a socio-technical controversy. Achieving this task implies understanding some crucial notions of STS (Science and Technology Studies) and mastering a number of traditional and digital investigation techniques. The course is meant to teach all that is necessary to accomplish this task.

Course schedule

The course alternates master lectures and practical workshops.
– The master lectures are meant to introduce and discuss the theoretical notions and the methodological tools necessary for controversy mapping.
– The practical workshops (in smaller groups) are meant to assure a constant and personalized support until the final exam and to provide a space for sharing and confrontation among the students.

Course organization

  • From the very beginning of the course, the class will be divided into groups of 6 students.
  • At the middle of the fall term, every group will choose the controversy that they will follow for the rest of the year.
  • With the help of a teaching assistant, every group will fill in a logbook (in the form of a research blog) gathering all the maps produced through the different cartographic exercises.
  • At the end of the spring term (with the help of a teaching assistant) every group will produce a 7 minutes video of the controversy presenting the results of their analyses and making the debate legible for a larger public.