Digital Societies: between Ontology and Methods


Bruno Latour, Sciences Po, Paris, Richard Rogers, University of Amsterdam

March 7, 2012 16:30-18:00

Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths

In this joint event, Bruno Latour and Richard Rogers will present their respective programmes for researching digital social life. If digital networked media are transforming social life as well as social research, what are the implications for our analysis of digital societies? In taking up this question, Latour and Rogers will examine the changing relations between technology, research methods and ontology in digital social life, and what this means for the emerging field of digital sociology.

Bruno Latour's engagement with the theme of digital societies has been long-standing, going back at least to his lecture inaugerating the Virtual Society Programme in 1998, in which he called for the development of a new social science of digital traces. Since then, Professor Latour has developed a comprehensive programme for the analysis of digital social life, and he has recently outlined the tenets of what might be called an 'equipped' or 'digitally enhanced' version of actor-network theory. In doing so, Latour has made it clear how sociology can take advantage of the ontologies of digital networked media, most specifically that of the 'profile,' in order to route around some of the major problems that have long hampered social research and theory, and to develop an empirically and conceptually viable alternative.

Bruno Latour video

Richard Rogers directs the Digital Methods Initiative which has as its principal objective the development of 'natively digital' methods: methods which deploy the specific affordances of online digital devices for social and cultural research. Over the last decade or so, the Digital Methods Initiative has developed a range of web-based research tools, of which the most well-known is probably the Issue Crawler, an online platform for the analysis and visualisation of hyperlink networks. Distinctive of all DMI's platforms and tools is that they re-purpose socially prevalent digital devices - such as the hyperlink - for social and cultural research. In doing so, DMI proposes a potentially profound re-organisation of the relations between social research and its object, the social world. 


This joint lecture is co-hosted by: the Department of Sociology, the Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP) and the Centre for the Social and Creative Technologies (CAST).

You can find out more about the MA/MSc Programme in Digital Sociology at Goldsmiths