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The Social Fabric — digital Traces and Quali-quantitative Methods

Tommaso Venturini, Bruno Latour

It is often said that digital technologies are revolutionizing the social sciences, much as they revolutionized the natural sciences a few decades ago. This is not the case. The situation in the social sciences is more like that of the natural sciences in the 15th century, just after the introduction of the printing press. In The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Elizabeth Eisenstein (1979) thoroughly describes how the introduction of the press triggered the Scientific Revolution of the XVI century. Yet, as Eisenstein makes very clear, the revolution did not broke overnight. Several decades after Gutenberg invention, naturalists were still printing the same mistakes they used to hand-copy. It was only after press attained a certain level of maturity and circulation that it started to have a real impact on the natural sciences (...).