Digital Issue Mapping

Issue Mapping

Issue mapping is a methodology drawn from Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT), which comes mainly from a Science and Technology Studies (STS) approach to social sciences. It tries to make sense of social issues by asking certain questions. In issue mapping, the researcher observes the actors at work, the statements being made, and what networks the combination of these two factors are creating. It asks questions like; how does an issue become such? Who is making an issue out of it and how are they making it an issue? Observation is really the key tenet here, so as Latour says, “just look at the controversies and tell what you see”. Eventually, issue mapping seeks to make a comprehensive narrative out of an issue to render it meaningful to others.

Digital Issue Mapping

In digital issue mapping, certain tools and digital methods will be able to come to our help, and the online context will bring new questions and challenges to our analysis. Trackers, tools and visualisation software can help us follow actors and create a compelling visual narrative, but we must also remember the way in which actors themselves are creating issues and making social bonds using online media. In an era of post-truth and fake news, it is critical to ask: how is the web being used for the “redirection of attention” by actors?

Therefore, to study an “issue space” online, Richard Rogers outlines 5 criteria to keep in mind.

1. Dominant voice refers to legitimacy and authority. Within an issue space, which sources are considered legitimate?

2. Concern refers to whether a person or organization is present or absent within the space. Who is doing or occupying the issue, and who has left it?

3. Commitment is the longevity or persistence of concern. Do actors move into and out of the issue space like they would a trend, or have they been there longer? 

4. Positioning can be identified through the choice of words that are employed to denote and discuss the matter of concern. Are these part of a larger discourses, or do they attempt to stay neutral?

5. Alignment refers to the formation of groups through positioning. Is the same issue language being used by others, and do they therefore share the same position?


Rogers, Richard. "Otherwise engaged: Social media from vanity metrics to critical analytics." International Journal of Communication 12.732942 (2018): 450-72.

Latour, Bruno. "What is the style of matters of concern." Two lectures in empirical philosophy. Department of Philosophy of the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam: Van Gorcum (2008).