Dr Plantin's current research investigates the political and social implications of “data science.” Recent research, workshops and regulation agencies’ reports warned against the invisibility of the supply chain for personal data. Two areas raise specific debates: the nature of the actors involved and their activity concerning extracting, processing and using personal data (such as “data brokers”); the migration of personal data between the different actors involved. The hypothesis of this ongoing research is that the social implications of that opacity, such as data-driven surveillance and discrimination, calls for new modes of visuality to shed light on how data circulate between the different social worlds involved in both producing and using these data.
Prior to this, Dr Plantin's postdoctoral research focused on the methodological issues arising from the use of social media data in social science. Researchers have been using large datasets for decades (e.g. in survey research), but there is currently a rising interest in large datasets coming from social media platforms. However, the terms of service of these companies typically conflict with scientific requirements, such as data sharing. Thus, how are these digital platforms reconfiguring the work of researchers and social science infrastructures, which are traditionally based on the reproducibility of scholarship? He investigated these consequences firstly at the infrastructure level, through a study combining interviews of researchers using Twitter data and a participatory observation at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), a research organization specializing in archiving and disseminating social science data. He secondly studied the impact of big data on interdisciplinary research through my involvement in the project “The Science of Data Science” (University of Michigan School of Information), investigating scientific collaborations amongst five interdisciplinary and data-driven projects. Results of this postdoctoral work were published in Digital Humanities Quarterly and IJOC: International Journal Of Communication.
In his doctoral dissertation (Online Mapping Practices: Expression, Remediation and Circulation, defended in 2012, Université de Technologie de Compiègne), Dr Plantin demonstrated how lay publics use web-based mapping applications (exemplified by Google Maps) to participate in socio-technical debates. A key case study concerned the nuclear disaster after the power plant explosions on March 11, 2011, in Fukushima, Japan, in which worried citizens extracted, processed and published nuclear radiation data through maps in a context of general skepticism towards the government. Results of this doctoral work were published in the book Participatory Mapping: New Data, New Cartography in 2014 (Wiley).