Spring 2024 Colloquium Series



Event Description

About the talk:

The personal data people give in exchange for convenient tools like Gmail and Instagram provides the raw material for predictions about everything from their purchasing power to their character. These algorithmic predictions influence their life chances and generate specific kinds of capital and social expectation: nobody wants to ride with an unrated cab driver anymore or rent to a tenant without a risk score. As members of this "ordinal society" embrace ranking and measurement in their daily lives, new forms of social competition and moral judgment arise. Familiar structures of social advantage are recycled into measures of merit that produce insidious kinds of social inequality. But while we obsess over order and difference―and the logic of ordinality digs deeper into our behaviors, bodies, and minds―what will hold us together? We warn that, even though algorithms and systems of rationalized calculation have inspired backlash, they are also appealing in ways that make them hard to relinquish.

About the Speakers:

Marion Fourcade is Professor of Sociology and Director of Social Science Matrix at UC Berkeley and (this term) a University Center of Human Values (UCHV) Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University. She is the author of Economists and Societies: Discipline and Profession in the United States, Britain and France, 1890s to 1990s (Princeton University Press, 2009) and numerous articles on valuation, knowledge, and politics in comparative perspective. The recently published The Ordinal Society (with Kieran Healy, 2024) describes the social and economic consequences of a new regime of knowledge, where people can be seen and scaled by way of behavioral data harvested through digital environments. Professor Fourcade is a recipient of the American Sociological Association's Distinguished Book Award, the Society for the Social Studies of Science's Ludwik Fleck prize for outstanding book in science and technology studies, and the Lewis Coser award for theoretical agenda setting. She has held a Visiting Professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study and is a past President of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics. Website: www.marionfourcade.org

Kieran Healy is Professor of Sociology at Duke University. He is the author most recently of The Ordinal Society (2024), and also of Data Visualization (2019) and Last Best Gifts (2006), as well as articles published in outlets across the disciplinary Social Sciences, Philosophy, and Law. Much of his research has been about the social organization of exchange in human blood and organs, cultural goods, software, and ideas. He also works on techniques and methods for data visualization, and some problems in social theory.