Versus was an experimental tool exploring the potential of web search engines (e.g. Google) as a way to understand actors related to a specific issue.

The public tool is no longer supported, but you can see its features from the video below.


The opening of enormous databases and the availability of new tools for accessing heterogeneous flows of Internet data are offering pioneering opportunities to observe and represent social Complex systems. The cartography of controversies, an applied version of the Actor-Network Theory, is one of the examples of this new way of exploring and understanding these systems. Controversies, here seen as social Complex phenomena, are some of the most multifaceted phenomena of society: they cannot be described from a single point of view. The researcher dealing with controversies would need original technical and conceptual tools for understanding and grasping their dynamics and their processes.

Our starting point is the recognition that Internet is both an object to be studied and a tool for studying and researching.  Furthermore Internet could be used as a platform to research about society rather than about digital and online culture. Several strategies and devices have been developed, such as crawlers and ad hoc research engines acting as epistemological machine, to observe, reassemble and comprehend wide social Complex issues. This hypothesis defines a new emerging cultural form that finds in the Internet a precious box which contains the elements to capture, explain and discuss social phenomena.

Where engines create ordered lists of relevant sources, information visualization can provide overviews of a particular system, making hidden relationships visible and information more accessible and useful. For these reasons the cartography of controversies overcomes some of the limits of the traditional description of social issues by exploiting the potentialities of information visualization and of information design. In this framework visual models and diagrammatic devices demonstrated to be useful tools to describe the different position assumed by the actors of controversy, and operating devices able to describe and unveil the nested and latent connections of a system or of a controversy.

In this framework information visualization would not provide the researcher with definitive answers, but would help in drafting better questions about the observed controversy. It could be stated that diagrams are like finding engines, rather than searching engines, able to better examine a faced issues. They act as epistemic machine as well.