i3 Seminar Analysis of online participation

Organized by Valérie Beaudouin and Alexandre Mallard

Link to i3 website

The seminar aims to develop current reflections about the use of digital data in the analysis of online practices and forms of participation. With the explosion of online communication, a richer and greater amount of information has become available to researchers to document practices in a variety of domains: consumption, political behavior, production of knowledge, sociability, democratic participation, controversy, etc. Evidence of practices and of communication occurring in these domains are now available on various media: forum, discussions lists, blogs, online press, social networks, dedicated exchange platforms, etc. Over the last few years, the use of these data for research purposes has become widespread but there is still little debate on the compilation of corpora, the methods of analysis and the articulation between digital analyses and more classical fieldwork in social science.

This seminar aims at being a meeting place for the sharing of knowledge, practices and know-how, for researchers from a variety of backgrounds who are confronted with these common research issues. It is intended to discuss research conducted in a variety of perspectives (sociology of uses, controversy study, analyses of social networks, pragmatic investigation, innovation follow-up, etc.) while striving to articulate two sides of the research work which sometimes are in tension or remain too separate: on the one hand the collection and editing of digital materials, on the other hand their mobilization and interpretation within specific analytical frameworks. The proposed mode of discussion allows for a presentation of past or current research results, while giving the opportunity to “enter” the data and the approaches, and to scrutinize the tools and the know-how chosen to exploit them. The focus is not to set up a training workshop in the strict sense of the word, but rather to endeavour to make visible the use of the necessary software, corpus-building operations, and other constructions achieved by using whatever comes to hand. The point is to open a discussion on common issues about these approaches that tend to remain confined to ordinary work and to the concrete vicissitudes of research:

  • Corpus-building steps: What archiving methods to protect the data? How to optimize the articulation between the building of corpora and their analysis? What legal framework for the use of digital corpora? What status for information that claims to be publicly available and accessible for everyone?
  • Methods of analysis: How to report the various sorting operations and selection of “interesting information” out of “raw data”? How to reach stable results through triangulation? How to by-pass the sensitivity of the results obtained with the configuration of the analysis software?
  • Combined use of methodological approaches: What are the problems raised with the combined use of online data and data obtained through other means (survey, documentation, observation, etc.)? Etc.

Dates and venues

Six sessions of the seminar will be scheduled in 2019-2020. They will take place on Thursday morning from 10:30 am to 12 noon, alternately at the École des Mines (60, boulevard St Michel) and at the École des Telecommunications (46, rue Barrault).

Programme for the year 2019-2020

The programme for 2019-2020 is currently being prepared and will be presented very soon.


The purpose of the seminar is to discuss online participation research as closely as possible with the links between data processing and subsequent interpretation. The following animation mode has been designed for this purpose:  participation research with the links between data processing and interpretation.

Prior to the seminar session, a text, already published or in the process of writing, will be made available on the seminar website.

A half-hour presentation by one or several guests will be centered, not on the argument (the participants should have read the text beforehand and thus already know the argument), but on the “making of”: specificities of data engineering implemented, recording devices / corpus-building process, analysis strategies, tools mobilized, etc.

The purpose of the collective discussion is to explore the link between data processing and analyses, interpretations, arguments to which they give rise.

Seminar programme in 2017-2018 »

Seminar programme in 2018-2019 »