social networking

Colloque Performance, théâtre, anthropologie (INHA/EHESS, 24-25 mai 2011)

J’interviendrai lors de ces deux journées d’études organisées par Georges Vigarello, Sylvie Roques et Christian Biet.  Voilà pour l’instant l’argumentaire et le programme – cela s’annonce tout à fait passionnant.

PERFORMANCE, théâtre, anthropologie

Le mot de performance s’est imposé dans le monde de l’art. Les chorégraphies de Jérôme Bel en danse, le « bio-art » de Yann Marussich jusqu’aux transformations physiques d’Orlan en sont autant d’exemples Il est porté sans doute par un contexte : celui de la productivité, de l’innovation, voire de l’informatisation1. Il s’est imposé aussi au théâtre, d’autant plus facilement d’ailleurs que la place du « faire » y semble première. Il s’y est même banalisé, régulièrement évoqué, jusqu’à apparaître quelquefois comme étant à l’essence même du jeu2. L’intérêt indéniable est ici d’aiguiser l’attention vers la part physique du spectacle, son versant le plus charnel.


  1. Voir Innovation et performance, approches interdisciplinaires, dir. D. Foray et J. Mannesse, Paris, EHESS, 1999.
  2. F. Dupont, « Facere ludos. La fonction rituelle et l’écriture du texte dans la comédie romaine: un exemple, le pseudolus de Plaute », Colloque international, Genève, 27-29 novembre 2003.

"Highly recommended" : 'Les Liaisons Numériques' selon Global Sociology (14 mars 2011)

Le blog américain Global Sociology publie une riche recension de l’ouvrage d’Antonio A. Casilli Les liaisons numériques. Vers une nouvelle sociabilité ? (Seuil). Communauté, individualisme, espace public, corps et réseaux sociaux : les notions analysées dans le livre de Casilli resonnent avec les débats contemporaines autour de la vie privée, la stratification sociale et l’accès à l’information.

The weak ties between members of virtual communities and social networks fill structural holes and give members access to resources that they would not have access to, if they were limited to bonding capital and to off-line preexisting relationships. And once structural holes are filled, information circulates more easily. On a larger, and more political, scale, this is what Wikipedia does: not so much revealing secrets but making information circulate, and, at the same time, exposing the fact that traditional media operate more like the little boxes of bonding relationships (and in the little box, you have political and media elites). In this sense, online “friends” (as in “Facebook friends”) are conduits of information more than they are friends (in the traditional sense). I have to say that I use my Twitter timeline, in part, as a source of information (along with my newsreader) and no longer television. It may feel, at times, that the book is a bit all over the place. It is. And I think it is deliberate. The entire book is not so much a study as an exploration of the diversity of ties and of the various forms that sociability takes in the context of Web 2.0. It is rich in examples and case studies, along with the more traditional social-scientific research. It is also highly readable and the numerous “stories” make it quite entertaining. As I mentioned above, I do hope it gets translated in English soon. Highly recommended (for French-reading audiences, that is).

Is "I google you" the new "I love you"?

In a recent interview for the French website OWNI, I hinted at how our information-intensive environment changes the way romantic relationships are created – and dissolved. Finding your significant other, as well as breaking up with him/her, becomes a cognitive task, as well as an emotional one. Consider Google, and how it can be used to either collect information about someone you just met at a party, or to passively stalk your ex. Love nowadays – as Cyrano de Bergerac would put it – is “a  rose-dot on the ‘i’ of ‘I google you'”.

Title: I google you
Artist: Amanda Palmer
Lyrics: Neil Gaiman

I google you
late at night when I don’t know what to do
I find photos
you’ve forgotten
you were in
put up by your friends


Bums, bridges, and primates: Some elements for a sociology of online interactions

This text was presented at the conference “Web Culture: New Modes of Knowledge, New Sociabilities”, Villa Gillet, Lyon (France), February 10th, 2011. Check against delivery. Click here for the .pdf version. Click here for the French translation.

In today’s presentation I will focus on the kind of social structures that users of computer-mediated global online communication networks (notably, the Web and social media) contribute to put in place. The point I will try to make is that science understanding of Web-based sociabilities has progressed enormously in the last decade, and that this should inform public policies touching on the Web, its regulation and governance.


Early glimpses into the social implications of ICT at a micro-level (that is: for the users themselves) date back to the mid-1970s and focus on the negative effect of these technologies. At the very origins of computer culture, we witness the emergence of the stereotype of the socially awkward computer hacker, isolated by the calculating machine which alienates him and keeps him apart from his peers. This characterization dates back to a time before the Web. In his Computer Power and Human Reason : From Judgement to Calculation (1976) Joseph Weizenbaum delivers us the portrayal of this subculture of compulsive computer programmer – or, as he liked to dub them, “computer bums”.

These are “possessed students” who “work until they nearly drop, twenty, thirty hours at a time.  Their food, if they arrange it, is brought to them: coffee, Cokes, sandwiches.  If possible, they sleep on cots near the computer. […] Their rumpled clothes, their unwashed and unshaven faces, and their uncombed hair all testify that they are oblivious to their bodies and to the world in which they move.  They exist, at least when so engaged, only through and for the computers.”

Since this first occurrence, and for a long time, common sense has almost unmistakably associated computer use and social isolation. Cultural analysts, novelists, commentators have been developing on this trope. Iconic cyberpunk author William Gibson, famously described Case, the main character of Neuromancer (1984), as a cyberspace-addict incapable of functioning in an offline social situation.


Le corps dans les réseaux sociaux : technologie du soi, technologie du nous (slides)

La cinquième séance de mon séminaire EHESS Corps et TIC : approches socio-anthropologiques des usages numériques a eu lieu le vendredi 11 févr. 2011. Le sujet traité : le corps dans les réseaux sociaux en ligne, comment les amis sur Facebook influencent l’apparence physique des utilisateurs, comment le choix de la photo d’un profil peut avoir un impact sur le capital social en ligne. Voici, comme d’habitude, les slides.

La prochaine (et dernière séance) est prévue pour jeudi 24 février 2011 (17h, salle 5, 105 Bd Raspail). Il y sera question de jouissance et sexe en ligne. Pour s’inscrire, il suffit de m’envoyer un petit mail gentil.

What's the actual size of your personal social network? Some numbers

Ok, so you have hundreds of friends on Facebook and thousands of followers on Twitter. Big deal. How many will show up to help you win that human pyramid contest, uh? And how many have you actually being interacting with in the last few months? More broadly, what’s the size of your actual social network? Scientists have been looking for an answer to that question, exploring the cognitive limits of the number of individuals one person can create ties with, both online and offline.

Famously, in 1992 anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed a rough estimate of 150. The ‘Dunbar’s number’ was the result of a large-scale study comparing the size of the neocortex in primates and humans. But in 1998 that figure pretty much doubled when social network analyst Peter Killworth contemplated a mean personal network size of 290. And in 2010 that number doubled again, as sociologist Matthew Salganik settled for an estimate of 610 personal ties.

So who says 1,200? Nobody yet. Maybe (I’m just teasing) psychologist Lisa Barrett will come up with a number of her own, if the hype surrounding her latest article published in Nature Neuroscience continues. What hype? Didn’t you see this?

Apparently, after scanning a few brains, Barrett and her team discovered a fancy correlation between personal network size and the size of the corpus amygdaloideum. Turns out Facebook has nothing to do with the matter in question. If the numbers of the average size of personal networks are going up as years go by, it’s not because of our increasing technological embeddedness. Dunbar’s number was based on the size of human neocortex (i.e. that part of the human brain presiding higher mental functions), so it  would come as no surprise if it was way smaller than the one correlated to the size of the amygdala (the part that regulates emotional responses and aggression). After all, it’s safe to say that among our acquaintances the number of those we would like to punch is higher than that of those with whom we would enjoy a civilized chat…


Bickart, K., Wright, C., Dautoff, R., Dickerson, B., & Barrett, L. (2010). Amygdala volume and social network size in humans Nature Neuroscience, advance online publication DOI: 10.1038/nn.2724

Dunbar, R. (1992). Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates Journal of Human Evolution, 22 (6), 469-493 DOI: 10.1016/0047-2484(92)90081-J

Killworth, P., Johnsen, E., Bernard, H. R., Shelley, G., & McCarty, C. (1990). Estimating the size of personal networks Social Networks, 12 (4), 289-312 DOI: 10.1016/0378-8733(90)90012-X

McCormick, T., Salganik, M., & Zheng, T. (2010). How Many People Do You Know?: Efficiently Estimating Personal Network Size Journal of the American Statistical Association, 105 (489), 59-70 DOI: 10.1198/jasa.2009.ap08518

ps. This post was inspired by a few tweets exchanged with mathematician Valdis Krebs (@orgnet) and anthropologist Sally Applin (@AnthroPunk). To them goes my appreciation and #FF.

Séminaire EHESS "Corps et technologies des l'information et de la communication"

Première séance du séminaire EHESS

Corps et technologies des l’information et de la communication

Approches socio-anthropologiques des usages numériques

animé par Antonio Casilli sociologue au Centre Edgar-Morin (IIAC EHESS/CNRS) et chercheur associé à l’Institut Télécom (équipe de recherche ETOS, TEM).

Date : jeudi 25 novembre 2010
Horaire : de 17h à 19h
Lieu : salle 5, EHESS, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris

L’essor des usages informatiques de masse a coïncidé avec le télescopage de deux plans – l’un physique, l’autre informationnel – de l’expérience humaine. Tout en s’inscrivant dans une continuité entre les objets techniques et la corporéité même de l’usager, les TIC véhiculent des représentations sociales qui semblent mettre entre parenthèse la sensualité et la matérialité des corps. Cet enseignement a pour objet une exploration synchronique et diachronique des pratiques et des recherches portant sur le corps dans les contextes d’interaction assistée par ordinateur. Il s’agira de tenter d’éclairer les logiques sous-tendant les différentes dimensions de ces technologies (de la e-santé à la construction d’avatars dans les jeux vidéo, de la mise en scène de soi dans les réseaux sociaux aux hybridations “cyborg” d’organismes et de machines) aussi bien que de s’intéresser aux contextes institutionnels et aux régimes de production des savoirs qui conditionnent ces faits sociaux.


Les séances à venir auront lieu les 2e et 4e jeudis du mois (17h, salle 5, sauf  la séance du 10 février, reportée au 11 février, même heure, salle 2). Le séminaire est ouvert aux auditeurs libres – étudiants qui désirent simplement participer aux séminaires de l’EHESS, sans y être inscrits officiellement.

* 25 novembre 2010 (17h, salle 5) : Virus
* 9 décembre 2010 (17h, salle 5) : Cyborg
* 13 janvier 2011 (17h, salle 5) : Avatar
* 27 janvier 2011 (17h, salle 5) : eSanté
* 11 février 2011 (17h, salle 2) : Réseaux
* 24 février 2011 (17h, salle 5) : Jouissance

Liens utiles

Page web EHESS :
Page Facebook :
Page Calenda :

Are social media deepening nutritional inequalities?

CNN’s food blog Eatocracy has joined forces with the popular location-based social networking service Foursquare to launch a new healthy eating campaign. The concept is very simple: people are encouraged to check in local farmers markets to unlock special ‘Healthy Eater’ badges. The  mix of emulation and status anxiety motivating most Foursquare users should expose them to nutritionally correct environments. It should also provide CNN journalists with something to talk about (I was gonna say ‘something to sink their teeth into’) for a week-long series dedicated to tomatoes and jovial shopkeepers.

If you detect a little sarcasm in my prose, it is not because of the unlabored definition of health that such intiative seems to promote. CNN might be perpetuating the stereotype that ‘healthy’ equates to ‘fruit and vegetables’. But, as far as social media are concerned, this is as good as it gets when it comes to health information campaigns.


Tableau des équivalences web occidental / web chinois

Il y a quelques mois, lors de la conférence Lift10, l’auditoire a été capturé par le brillant exposé de Basile Zimmermann. Le jeune professeur de l’Université de Genève a expliqué – d’une manière extrêmement convaincante – comment la différence culturelle entre la Chine et les sociétés euro-étasuniennes soit encodée dans le langage et dans les pratiques d’écriture. Et quand les usages technologiques s’en mêlent, l’écart peut se creuser encore davantage. Les  claviers,  les écrans, et les conventions communicationnelles opposent radicalement la manière de lire des contenus en ligne en Chine et dans les pays “alphabetiques”.

Certes utile pour se repérer dans le web chinois, le tableau concocté par l’expert de médias sociaux Thomas Crampton, doit IMHO être lu à l’aune des commentaires de Basile Zimmermann – qui nous invite à ne pas réduire la différence culturelle à un simple jeu d’équivalences.


Running experiments on Twitter? Don't forget the bug

Just a quick post to point you to an interesting article about tie formation on Twitter – which is also the place where I found this reference, a couple of days ago:
Scott A. Golder and Sarita Yardi (2010). Structural Predictors of Tie Formation in Twitter: Transitivity and Mutuality. Proceedings of the Second IEEE International Conference on Social Computing. August 20-22, Minneapolis, MN.

Here I summarize the results:

  • The more followers you have, the more followers you attract (ok, admittedly this doesn’t come as a surprise…);
  • Reciprocity in tie formation doesn’t seem to be due to similarity in interests but, more likely, to some kind of social obligation (well, this is getting more interesting);
  • Self-presentation (pic, bio and location) doesn’t seem to matter, except for location which appears to be negatively correlated to tie formation (now they got my attention…);
  • Transitivity and mutuality predict tie formation if they are taken together, but authors “suggest that a consistent status hierarchy and some level of tie strength drive this effect” (this is definitely worth looking into).