Socio-Semantic Dynamics for Digital Social Sciences: Methodology and Epistemology of large textual corpora analysis

Marc Barbier, Cointet Jean-Philippe, Lionel Villard


Until recent time, the description, light-modeling and interpretation of socio-cognitive dynamics of science-society relations and social media relationships required a constructivist approach, involving collecting, reading, classifying and interpreting tasks performed by scholars examining sets of digital data (texts, archives, structured databases, websites, blogs, etc.). The growing mass of data produced in the so-called Knowledge Society owes a lot to the acceleration and profusion of digital tools that are now widely used in many areas of human activities: work, culture, leisure, political expression, etc. Social scientists now largely acknowledge that the various modes of interaction brought by new information and communication technologies are changing the very nature of micro-politics and the expression of the self. In our views the conditions for producing knowledge in social sciences and humanities more widely are changed too. New computational infrastructures specifically designed for social sciences and humanities enable scientists to access tools, methods and data, that tackle the complexity of heterogeneous corpora. This requires the development of innovative analytical methodologies that will bring new insights and renewed capacities to investigate contemporary issues. The aim of this communication is to propose: (1) to discuss some of the epistemic problems that surge from the use of computational platforms ambitioning the development of our capacities of enquiry of knowledge production in society; (2) to present the main developments and experiences that had been led within the CorTexT Platform as well as their driving principles, over its ten years of existence; (3) to deliver a retrospective overview of the scientific results and their correlative usages within the CorTexT Platform to decipher the spectrum of knowledge that can be fostered by this new type of instrument for the socio-semantic analysis of textual or bipartite networks of many types.

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