Summer school 2014

FORCCAST Summer School on the cartography

and pedagogy of controversies


From the 27th to the 29th of August 2014.

Controversies are both empirical phenomena, methodological challenges, and political fields of intervention. During the FORCCAST summer school on the cartography and pedagogy of controversies we will use their multifaceted nature to explore how they can prompt us to teach and learn in new and innovative ways.

As a participant in the summer school you will work with the FORCCAST team and a number of invited speakers to construct a typology of controversies that will help us answer three essential questions to the cartography and pedagogy of controversies, namely:

  • What are the virtues and affordances of different types of controversies?
  • What are the goals and visions behind different approaches to the study of controversies?
  • How can we assess the usefulness of tools and methods for controversy mapping in view of such differences?

Participants will be asked to read a set of classic controversy studies and experiment with a selected set of tools as a preparation for the school.

The school is tailored to early career researchers and university teachers who are interested in using controversies as new vectors of pedagogical intervention.
It is sponsored by the FORCCAST project and organized in collaboration with the Médialab at SciencesPo, and it is part of a series of summer schools on controversy studies that is set to run over the next 4-5 years.

The first edition of the controversy studies summer school series will take place at the École des Mines ParisTech60 boulevard Saint-Michel, 75006 Paris (see map here).

How to apply?
Participation is free. Please send your application containing your name, academic affiliation, and motivation for participating in the school (max 2 pages) to before June 15th 2014.

Selection process
Space is limited and we will select participants based on the letter of motivation. A final program will be available by the end of May and you will be notified on the confirmation of your participation by June 10th.


About controversy mapping
Controversy Mapping offers an innovative methodological approach in the study of science and technology in society, and a means of equipping a democratic public faced with the necessity of having to navigate complex issues under conditions of uncertainty. Over the past decade and most recently in the context of projects like FORCCAST or E-MAPS, a number of academic institutions have collaborated to explore the use of digital methods and digital media for mapping, analysing and visualising controversies in science and technology.  Out of this work comes a series of core claims about the democratic and pedagogic potential of controversies and controversy mapping:


  • Controversies in science and technology, whatever we take them to be, constitute a particularly interesting object of study.
  • Cartography, whatever we take that to be, offers a particularly useful or productive way of engaging with such controversies.
  • Controversy mappings can facilitate the public engagement with science and technology, provide useful navigational aids for those affected or otherwise concerned bycomplicated techno-scientific issues, and thus constitute valuable democratic equipment for a public having to take action under conditions of radical uncertainty, and in the absence of clear, unambiguous and consensual expert advice.
  • The above renders controversies pedagogically potent insofar as mapping them will prompt students to properly consider and reflect upon the interactions between science, technology and society, between experts and democracy, and between the public and its problems in the 21st century.

About the summer school
This year the summer school will address the question of what constitutes a ‘good’ controversy for controversy mapping? The past forty years have seen techno-scientific controversies invested with a lot of potential. Hailed and denounced as both a solution to and a source of a shifting range of problems they have been studied in a variety of contexts, and for a variety of reasons.

But what makes controversies controversial in the first place? What sets them apart from mere disagreements and misunderstandings? Why are they of particular interest to us? What can we learn from them? And how?


Preliminary program

On the first day of the summer school we will concentrate on how to assess the morphology of a controversy and linking this assessment to the hopes and aspirations associated with different types of controversy study. The goal is to have a first draft of a typology of controversies ready by the end of the day.


  • Introduction to the FORCCAST project and the idea of using controversies to teach science and technology studies.
  • Introduction to the summer school assignment: produce a typology of controversies.
  • Presentations by invited speakers. We have asked them to give us their take on the following questions:
    • Why should we study and engage with controversies?
    • What are their respective virtues and affordances?
    • What sets them apart from other forms of disagreement?
    • What could be relevant ways of distinguishing different types of controversy from one another?
    • What kind of interventions can we realistically hope to make by engaging with controversies?
    • And what are the main challenges in doing so?


  • Bruno Latour presents his concept of controversy mapping and is interviewed by participants and invited speakers. Together we will clarify the specific stance of the controversy mapper in the wider spectrum of controversy studies.
  • Participants work with invited speakers on the summer school assignment.


  • Working dinner

On the second day of the school we will concentrate on how to assess the usefulness of different tools and methods for controversy mapping. The goal is to link the insights from day one to the specific potentials and limitations of specific tools.


  • Introduction to the FORCCAST tool database.
  • Invited tool advocates present a selection digital methods for controversy mapping and discuss with participants how these might be useful for teaching controversy mapping at different stages, in different contexts, and with different goals. We will deal with tools from the following domains of digital methods:
    • Text mining
    • Web cartography
    • Social media
    • Scientometrics


  • Summer school participants work with invited speakers and tool advocates to plot tools and methods on the emerging typology of controversies.


  • Drinks and (non-working) dinner

On the third day of the school we will work with the question of how to structure a controversy mapping project and a controversy mapping course. The goal is to make informed choices based on an appreciation of the scope of the project/course, the stance of the controversy mapper, the character of the controversy we are dealing with, and the tools we have at our disposal to so.


  • Completion of typologies.
  • Discussion of potential ways of structuring a course in controversy mapping, allowing students to select suitable controversies to map, suitable methods for doing so, etc.


  • Presentation of results


  • Goodbye drinks

 Invited speakers
A number of invited speakers will work with the participants and summer school teachers.


We have invited Bruno Latour, Noortje Marres, Trevor Pinch, and Sarah Whatmore to help us deploy these questions;  we have invited a number of the leading tool advocates to help us understand how digital methods may or may not be useful for the cartographer; and we have the FORCCAST team on hand to help us translate our improved understanding of what controversies are good for, and how different tools can be of aid, into concrete teaching practice.



Key questions
The summer school program will require us to consider questions like: What is a good size of a controversy? What is a good composition? What is a good level of complexity? What is a good temperature? And what can be considered a controversy in the first place?

To do so will require us to reflect on what a controversy mapping is supposed to be good for in the first place, such as:

  • Democratic deliberation
  • Learning
  • Navigation
  • Advocacy
  • Political intervention
  • Settlement and consensus-making
  • Contestation
  • Collaborative knowledge production.

Practical considerations
It will also require us to consider how a map may or may not be practically produced. 
For example: What tools do we have at our disposal? And what tools would we like to have at our disposal in the future? What visual formats can we make use of? And how do we harness their potentials? How do factors like time, access and available competencies limit what we can do as cartographers? And to what extent and in which ways do different tools and different approaches serve different purposes for controversy mapping?

Learning objectives
The summer school will therefore enable its participants to:

  • Identify different types of controversies
  • Assess the complexity of a controversy, including its ‘temperature’, its dynamics, and its composition
  • Evaluate the feasibility and methodological restraints of different digital tools for charting and exploring different aspects of a controversy vis-à-vis the above complexity
  • Discuss different purposes that a controversy mapping may serve
  • Evaluate the potential of different cartographic formats and techniques for achieving these differing purposes
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