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How to map issues?

Mixing methods for the study of topical affairs


A workshop led by Noortje Marres (Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies) and hosted by the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Warwick.

14th and 15th September 2016| 9am to 5pm| MS.05 Zeeman Building, University of Warwick

Confirmed speakers:

  Kristin Asdal (University of Oslo)
I Document analysis
  Andrew Barry (University College London)
I Fieldwork
  Nerea Calvillo (University of Warwick)
I Inventive methods
  Mathieu Jacomy (Sciences Po Paris)
I Adjustable digital methods
  Anders Munk (UAA, Copenhagen)
I Social media analysis
  Sophie Mutzel (University of Lucerne)
I Topic modelling

This two-day workshop is designed to showcase, discuss and test a range of experimental methods and methodologies for analysing current affairs, public controversies and related topical formations.

While significant attention in issue mapping research has focused on digital methods in recent years, this workshop aims to introduce a wider range of interdisciplinary approaches to issue analysis, including field research, documentary analysis, and design methods.

Refreshment and lunches will be provided. A limited number of travel and accommodation bursaries are available for UK based PhD students.

A draft programme and lecture and workshop abstracts with suggested readings are now available here.


Registration for this training event is now closed. A waiting list is in operation. If you would like to be put on the waiting list please email

Event overview

Is this topic a happening issue? Where is it happening, and who are the relevant actors? What are the active issue terms, and/or “issue objects”? These questions are routinely asked across everyday life, in organisations and public settings, but they may also serve as productive starting points for social inquiry.

Issue analysis offers an answer to wider methodological concerns in contemporary social research and theory. Researchers in a variety of fields are today seeking to come to terms with the dynamism, heterogeneity and distributed quality of social, cultural and public life, and methods of issue mapping translate this sensibility into an empirical approach. Part research method and part creative practice, they provide a way to locate, visualise and interpret ever-changing thematic formations using a variety of techniques.

This workshop aims to introduce a range of issue mapping techniques and methodologies to a diverse audience with a background and/or interest in the social sciences. Through lectures and hands-on workshops, we will explore digital and creative techniques alongside fieldwork-based and materially aware methodologies. The aim is to open up a wider, interdisciplinary space in which a range of methods and methodologies for issue mapping can be learnt, tested and possibly, combined.


The two-day event will feature lectures by international experts introducing the basic tenets, principal contributions and/or defining sensibilities of the methods and methodologies in question (in the mornings). The afternoons will be dedicated to practice-based workshops, in which participants can try out selected methods of issue analysis under guidance of workshop organisers and invited speakers. The event will be open to all, but is primarily aimed at doctoral and early career researchers, and is funded by the University of Warwick ESRC Doctoral Training Centre.


Attendance is free, but attendance will be limited to 50 participants, and priority will be given to UK-based PhD students. There are a limited number of travel bursaries available for UK based PhD students. If you are eligible, please express an interest in receiving one of these in the registration form. You will be notified as to whether you have received a bursary in advance of the event.




Methods and methodologies of issue mapping have been developed accross a range of interdisciplinary fields for many decades, including science & technology studies (controversy analysis), policy research (discourse mapping, issue-network analysis) as well as advocacy and journalism (debate mapping). More recently, issue mapping has been implemented as an approach in digital social research (Rogers and Marres, 2005), and has been taken up in creative disciplines, like design research (Kimbell et al, 2015).

Each in different ways, this work across disciplines seeks to establish the importance of public controversies and issue formations as objects of social inquiry: in controversies, latent social problems may find public expression; processes of issue formation can render ever-changing relations between science, politics, society and nature more visible; when concerns are raised, inter-connections between media dynamics and public affairs may become research-able (Barry, 2001; Latour, 2005; Venturini, 2012).

While issue mapping research across fields shares many aims, the approach has been developed with the aid of very different methods, from network analysis to fieldwork and design research. In recent years, much attention in issue mapping research has focused on digital methods, but this workshop will focus on a set of wider, methodolological aims of issue mapping research, which are pursued in current social research with the aid of different methods.

Much recent work in issue mapping research serves distinctive objectives, namely to develop processual, locational and/or materially aware forms of social analysis. A distinctive feature of issue mapping research, then, is that it enables us to query the changing composition, distribution and locations of issue formation, through the study of specific situations, settings or media environments (be this a social media platform, a Parliamentary debate, or a street trial).

By introducing, testing and exploring a wide set of approaches to issue analysis, the workshop will show, discuss and explore how issue mapping can help to realize the above methodological objectives in contemporary social research.

Indicative readings

Asdal, K. (2014). From climate issue to oil issue: offices of public administration, versions of economics, and the ordinary technologies of politics. Environment and Planning A, 46(9), 2110-2124.

Barry, A. (2012). Political situations: Knowledge controversies in transnational governance. Critical Policy Studies, 6(3), 324-336.

Latour, B. (2005) How to feed off controversies? In Re-assembling the Social. An introduction to actor-network theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marres, N. (2015). Why map issues? On controversy analysis as a digital method. Science, technology & human values, 40(5), 655-686.

Marres, N. (2014). The environmental teapot and other loaded household objects. Objects and Materials: A Routledge Companion, 260.

Marres N. and R. Rogers (2005), "Recipe for Tracing the Fate of Issues and their Publics on the Web," in B. Latour and P. Weibel, eds., Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 922-935

Munk, A. K. (2014). Mapping Wind Energy Controversies Online: Introduction to Methods and Datasets. Available at SSRN 2595287.

Mützel, S. (2015). Structures of the Tasted: Restaurant Reviews in Berlin Between 1995 and 2012. Moments of Valuation: Exploring Sites of Dissonance, 147.

Rogers, R., Sánchez-Querubín, N., & Kil, A. (2015). Issue mapping for an ageing Europe. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Venturini T., M. Jacomy, D. Pereira (2015) Visual Network Analysis, working paper,

Venturini, T., Ricci, D., Mauri, M., Kimbell, L. and Meunier, A. (2015). Designing Controversies and their Publics. Design Issues, 31(3): 74-87*

Right hand image is a Nervous Systems, 11.3.-9. 5 .2016 Installation view
© Laura Fiorio / Haus der Kulturen der Welt