Can we have our facts back? Testing the Web for public knowledge Retour aux actualités


How do we make the case for “knowledge democracy” in the face of the growing influence of movements that denounce experts and expertise? While the threats to knowledge posed by these movements are real, I argue that it would be a mistake to return to a classic intellectual strategy––the politics of demarcation––in the face of this danger. Examining practical proposals for combatting fake news and opinion manipulation on the Internet, namely so-called « fact-checking » tools and services, I argue that they threaten to enroll us in a problematic normative project, one that aims to re-establish a hierarchy between knowledge and its presumed opposite, non-knowledge, or anti-knowledge. Instead of consolidating hierarchies of knowledge through facts that derive their authority form outside the public sphere, we need to recover the central role in public life of experimental facts: statements whose truth value is unstable. I will then discuss an on-going study undertaken with the Public Data Lab and Liliana Bounegru in which we use lexicon-based methods and tools to analyse the robustness and vibrancy of public facts: empirical propositions circulating in public media, of which the experimental validation must partly be accomplished in the latter domain.

Recommended reading: Marres, Noortje. « Why We Can’t Have Our Facts Back ». Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 4, no 0 (24 juillet 2018): 423‑43.


Noortje Marres is Associate Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick, and a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Science & Technology Studies at the University of Leiden. She has published two monographs, Material Participation (Palgrave, 2015) and Digital Sociology (Polity, 2017). Recently she wrote Why we can’t have our facts back (see: ) More info at

Practical information

Wednesday november 7th 2018 – 2pm to 4pm.

This seminar is open to all within the limits of available places. Please register in advance.

Seminar venue : Salle du médialab, 13 rue de l’Université, 75007 Paris