This white paper explores the consequences (or requirements) of a theory of replications on qualitative methods by (kind of) expanding the wonderful paper “The topofil of Boa Vista” by Bruno Latour. It will be published soon, it was produced after a seminar at the University of Siegen.
Social sciences were built from comparison methods assembling field works and data, either quantitative or qualitative. Big Data offers new opportunities to extend this requirement to build commensurable data sets. The paper tells the story of the two previous quantification eras (census and polls) in order to demonstrate the need for a new agency to be considered as the target of this new generation of social sciences: that of objects as ANT proposed and of replications that propagate all over the digital networks. The case study of Latour’s topofil of Boa Vista is revisited to explore how a qualitative method dedicated to comparison and an ANT approach extended in a replication theory may offer new insights from any field study and may use the digital ressources to do so. For those who are familiar with the 3 generations framework, go to the second half of the paper about the topofil!