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Big Data: The Far West of Information?
An Interview with Pierre-Michel Menger & Simon Paye

by Cristelle Terroni , 17 September 2015
translated by Kate McNaughton
with the support of Institut français (vidéo)

What is big data ? Who uses it and how ? Pierre-Michel Menger and Simon Paye analyse the economics of these new information flows, which are transforming both marketing and consumption practices, and probably social sciences as well.

Over the last few years, the new « big data » economics has based itself on a rapid flow of innovations and applications destined to stock, analyze, visualize and exchange consumers’ and internet users’ activity and digital footprint.

Given that they are a means of profiling users, thus predicting their behaviour and persuading them in turn to fulfil said suggested anticipations, these footprints have become a trove of highly valuable information in the eyes of business companies.

This mass digital data is also highly interesting for social scientists. Big data shed a new light on individual and network social practices. In order to address what it at stake with this new phenomenon at a social, economic and political level, Simon Paye and Pierre-Michel Menger organised a workshop at the Collège de France on June 2nd, 2014, called “Big data, enterprises et sciences sociales” [Bid data, business and the social sciences].

In this interview, Simon Paye and Pierre-Michel Menger sum up the main issues dealt with during this workshop, drawing tentative conclusions from them.

Pierre-Michel Menger is Professor of Sociology of Creative Work at the Collège de France. He recently published The Economics of Creativity (Harvard University Press, 2014) and La différence, la concurrence et la disproportion (Fayard, Collection des Leçons Inaugurales du Collège de France, 2014). His research focuses on work markets, the worlds of invention and creation, and the interaction between technological innovation and the evolution of professional occupations.

Simon Paye is a sociologist specialised in industrial relations, and a junior researcher at the Collège de France’s Department of Sociology of Creative Work. He holds a PhD from the Institut Etudes Politiques of Paris. His research focuses on the evolution of academic work, the social history of engineers and working time inequalities. He has authored the thesis Différencier les pairs. Mise en gestion du travail universitaire et encastrement organisationnel des carrières académiques (Royaume-Uni, 1970-2010)


Filming and editing : Cristelle Terroni

by Cristelle Terroni, 17 September 2015

To quote this article :

Cristelle Terroni, « Big Data: The Far West of Information?. An Interview with Pierre-Michel Menger & Simon Paye », Books and Ideas , 17 September 2015. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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