Scientific (sociological, anthropological, cultural) theories may be permeated with a jargon that makes studying them difficult and discourages the less persistent ones from looking for possibilities of their creative application. The actor-network theory (ANT) could also be accused of using such an incomprehensible lingo; moreover, one could describe it as a negative thinking proposition that focuses on what things ought not to be and how not to study them. Little wonder then that the ANT needed a more practical and positive version, which came to be known as controversies cartography or mapping.

Mapping controversies is intended to observe and describe the “magma” of collective life. It is about looking closely at “moments of social upheaval” when, as Tommaso Venturini put it, we not only question the answers, but fail to agree on the very questions. For cartographers of controversies, disputes, failures and fiascos are the best research subjects. These are elements of social reality that are still under construction before assuming a form that nobody will question.

Controversies mapping is a research tool that is derived from the sociology of scientific knowledge. Recently it has been venturing ever more boldly into other fields of the humanities that are preoccupied with architecture, design or urban planning. The lecture will outline the method, its history and – using the conditional mood – the possible directions of development. Of interest will also be questions about how to understand “controversies” (as an element of non-colloquial language) and whether it is possible to map without maps.

Aleksandra Kil is a PhD student at the Institute of Cultural Studies of Wrocław University, a member of the Contemporary Humanities Lab and the Soundscape Research Studio. She is the co-author of the book “Issue Mapping for and Ageing Europe” (Amsterdam University Press, 2015).