Author: Mathieu Jacomy

The Thick Machine

With Anders Munk and Asger Olesen we have been experimenting with machine learning with the help of a physical device built by Asger. It looks like an arcade game and for reasons that will appear, we call it the “thick machine”. We presented it at the Machine Anthropology Workshop at…

� A meter for “OK Boomer”

Since “OK Boomer” emerged as a mainstream thing during fall 2019, I have been tempted to engage with it. I talked about it with friends, and got progressively convinced that a stupid idea could actually be fun, and interesting. Finally, during the Christmas holidays, I put aside my PhD work…

The register effect: lists, regimes of absence, and the design of discreteness

This is a follow-up to this blog post where I call bullshit on the claim that computer are radically incapable of certain things because they are discrete, while real life is continuous. The circulation of such claims matters because it shifts accountability. Indeed, we use computations for analyzing social life,…

Is living experience radically non-digital?

I read once again the claim to a radical difference between computers and empirical reality, because the former is discrete (discontinuous) and the latter is not. This claim states that computations are digital, reality analogous, and concludes that big data will never fully account for social life. This argument is…

Two stories about “Divided they Blog”, figure 1.

Lada Adamic and Nathalie Glance published one of the first papers analyzing an empirical network of websites, Divided they Blog. It features a network of political blogs, harvested before the 2004 US presidential election. For good or for bad, its first figure may have had more influence than its findings.…

Is Gephi a Black Box?

This text was inspired by Emilija Jokubauskaite’s master’s thesis at DMI under Bernhard Rieder’s supervision. She studied Gephi and its epistemic culture, conducting a series of interviews (including mine) and reflecting on the relations between the tool and its users, mostly in the social sciences. Gephi and Its Context: Three…

Why I use the term “big data”

I do not like the term “big data” but I use it anyway, though not systematically. I share my reasons to the community of research engineers. From the perspective of an engineer, big data is the kind of technical term that the marketing guys repurposed for their own needs. A…

Digital Glitter, the Curse of Big Data Visualization

In this piece I argue that in social science and humanities, data visualizations are cursed by a latent incentive to reframe them as spectacular outcomes, when in reality, most are mere by-products of scholarly work. Even though data visualization can be highly valuable as research publication (which requires expertise and…

What do we see when we look at networks?

With Tommaso Venturini and Pablo Jensen, we submitted the following paper to publication. In a nutshell, we propose and discuss a framework for interpreting networks visually, in the context of a dot-line diagram and a force-directed node placement algorithm, which is a common practice in the social sciences. Download PDF:…

Close reading Wikipedia from Pareto to Network Science, part 4

Part 0 – Exploring relations between Pareto and Network SciencePart 1 – Focusing on the power lawPart 2 – Concepts of complex network and preferential attachmentPart 3 – Statistical law or distribution?This is part 4: How network science bridges with statistics In this part we focus on the relations between…

Stop stretching your T-SNE, UMAP, and networks!

(source)Did you know that T-SNE and UMAP have deep connections with visual network analysis? All those visualization techniques have something in common that is also radically different to most traditional techniques used in science, such as line charts, bar charts and scatter plots. The most trivial consequence is that stretching…

A standard for presenting network visualizations

I just attended an exam on controversy mapping at Aalborg University, where among other things students interpreted Gephi visualizations of different kinds (pic related). There were networks of Wikipedia pages on Parenting. The students were quite good despite common issues about how to talk about networks. The exercise is hard,…

Close reading Wikipedia from Pareto to Network Science, part 3

Part 0 – Exploring relations between Pareto and Network SciencePart 1 – Focusing on the power lawPart 2 – Concepts of complex network and preferential attachmentThis is part 3: Statistical law or distribution? In this part we focus on a nice issue. As we have seen previously, there is a…

Close reading Wikipedia from Pareto to Network Science, part 2

Part 0 – Exploring relations between Pareto and Network SciencePart 1 – Focusing on the power lawThis is part 2: Concepts of complex network and preferential attachment As we mentioned in the part 1 of this work, just defining the concepts we need to understand the field requires an effort.…

Close reading Wikipedia from Pareto to Network Science, part 1

This exploration searches for traces of the circulation of structuralist claims from statistics to network science, from Pareto to Barabási. Barabási’s claims are indeed reminiscent of the foundations of statistics, when Quetelet or Galton aimed at unveiling the laws of the social. Where does it come from? I saw a…