Sociologist Laboratory uses of Orange and professor at the University Paris -Is Marne-la-Vallée, Dominique Cardon explains how the algorithms and big data produce a representation of the world new and recreate new inequalities.

Are the algorithms and big data in the process of transforming our society?

We are between two speech today. On one side we have the wonderful promise of big data, which are all calculated, we simplify life, enhance democracy, the market or health. Silicon Valley sells us a model that is utopian politics, that of disintermediation-ubérisation, in a kind of alliance between capitalism and contemporary individualism, which would short-circuit the institutions, states and forms of classical representation .

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And on the other hand, algorithms, which are hovering the risk of the return of the great panopticon, domination, rationality and calculation. The technologies are useful to our lives. The anthropologist André Leroi-Gourhan explained that we became human because we met the tool. We have become the beings of knowing that we are because we transferred our memory to the books.

This knowledge is now distributed in our environment, in our pocket. She guides us and we recommend it. The couple that we are training almost since the dawn of humanity with technological environments makes us constantly. Calculations transform us because they put meaning on the data. They guide us and lead us and especially produce worlds.

Which worlds offer us the algorithms?

We do not think enough about how Google class information. It considers that there is a form of authority information that appears on the first page because they were cited by many other sites that have their own authority. It is a meritocratic conception.

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Google is an absolutely meritocratic society, where one selects candidates by fourteen exams to recruit people who are overqualified for their job. They are the best. But do poorly? What we do with page 2, page 3 or page 4? That’s the world that manufactures a calculator. It organizes a worldview in the way of organizing information.

The social networks-they would not be a reaction to calculations Google, the social against the math?

Yes of course. Google imposes a world. What the page rank or position to Google authority is to create a global market qualities. It is, suddenly, incredibly overwhelming. It is much like all the dynamics that have been studied by economists, Piketty and others. That is to say that one enters hierarchies unprecedented inequalities where 0.5% of individuals aspiring 90% of the resource, which is just the case of navigation on the first pages of Google.

Social networks have come to say that the company resumed support the prioritization of information, organizing since its affinity network (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), saying “I’ll see what I chose to see “.

But do not finally do we find this meritocracy in social networks?

We find this alliance between Silicon Valley and individuals. What is at the heart of the calculations is to say that we will redefine society from below, from the people. Much has represented the company by categories. The history of the state is inseparable from that of the measure by the State of its population, which is by the statistics, CSP and categories, resulting in collective agreements and organizes professional markets.

The big data and new calculations come remove all this stuff categories that represent evil. People do not want to be faithful to their newspaper, which decides for them of their information. They want to do it themselves. So we will recalculate the bottom. And we are the first accomplices because we did not want to belong to a category. We are singular. This is what social networks are doing.

I do not want that Le Monde has decided for me in the hierarchy of information. We will take the peculiarities of the individual that circulates among the log information and take those who join its interests and its tastes. The individual, who wants to have the power in this matter, wants to control it all, to be in control. Even if he knows that this is an illusion.
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