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Les systèmes complexes et la digitalisation des sciences. Histoire et sociologie des instituts de la complexité aux États-Unis et en France by Fabrizio Li Vigni


How to think the relationship between contemporary scientific cultures and the rising usage of computer in the production of knowledge ? This thesis offers to give an answer to such a question, by analyzing historically and sociologically a scientific domain founded by the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in the 1980s in the United States : the « complex systems sciences » (CSS). Become well-known thanks to popular books and articles, CSS have spread in Europe and in other countries of the world in the course of the 1990s and the 2000s. This work proposes a history of the foundation of this domain, by focussing on the SFI and on the French Complex Systems National Network. With a sociological take rooted into Science & Technology Studies and into pragmatism, it then asks some questions about the socio-epistemic status of such a domain, about the modalities of production of evidence as they are employed in the context of digital simulation and, finally, about the epistemic engagements hold by complexity specialists. Empirical material – composed by circa 200 interviews, several thousands archival pages and a small number of laboratory visits – allows us not only to improve knowledge about this field – whose language is very common today, but little studied by historians and sociologists ; it also brings us to question three current opinions in the human and social sciences literature regarding digital sciences. That is : 1) that the computer produces more and more interdisciplinary knowledge, 2) that it gives birth to a new type of knowledge which needs an entirely new epistemology to be well understood and 3) that it inevitably brings about neoliberal visions of the world. Now, this thesis deconstructs these three forms of technological determinism concerning the effects of computer on scientific practices, by showing firstly that, in digital sciences, the interdisciplinary collaborations are not made without any effort and in a symetrical and pacific way ; secondly, that CSS’ researchers mobilize a kind of evidence production techniques which are well known in other disciplines ; and, thirdly, that scientists’ epistemic engagements can take (neo)liberal forms, but also other forms that depart from neoliberalism or that stand against it.

Source: http://www.theses.fr/2018PSLEH134


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