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This article suggests that the recent availability of digital data allows us to revisit the social theory of Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904) and to forego notions such as the individual or society. Our argument is that as long as it was impossible, difficult or simply tedious to gather and navigate through masses of information on a particular item, it was sensible to describe social phenomena as if they were taking place at two different levels: one for the individuals, and the other for the aggregates. But if individuals are defined by their relations, it would be more beneficial to navigate through the datascapes without distinguishing the level of the individual element from that of the collective structures. A new credibility can thus be given to Tarde's strange notion of 'monads'?. We assert that it is precisely this mode of navigation, made possible by digital databases, which allows us to alter sociological theory. Strictly speaking, we should no longer talk about collective phenomena as opposed to individual phenomena, but only of as many different ways of collecting phenomena.


Bruno Latour
Dominique Boullier
Pablo Jensen
Tommaso Venturini
Sebastian Grauwin
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Latest publication on cairn or another partner portal
Latest publication on cairn or another partner portal
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