AIM Series Seminar | Sociology of AI



Massimo AIROLDI – emlyon Business School

Millions of intelligent machines actively participate to social life. They sort and order culture and the social world, by indicating what is “valuable”, “relevant”, “similar”, or “high-risk”. Through their incessant interactions with humans, they powerfully shape society, often in unpredictable ways.

AI technologies are also shaped by society in turn – well beyond developers’ initial choices and intentions. Machine learning systems adjust their future behaviour based on socially-situated feedback loops, and end up replicating the worldviews and biases inscribed in human-generated training data. From a sociological perspective, it can be argued that intelligent machines are not too dissimilar from “regular” social agents: they are socialized thanks to (datafied) learning processes, and practically contribute to the reproduction of material and symbolic inequalities – as in the cases of race and gender discriminations by AI hiring systems, predictive risk models, chatbots, or search engines. In this seminar, I articulate a Bourdieusian understanding of AI systems, aimed to illuminate cultural mechanisms of techno-social reproduction currently obscured by the normative and psychology-centred notion of “bias”.

Massimo AIROLDI – emlyon Business School

Massimo Airoldi is a sociologist and Assistant Professor at emlyon business school. He collaborates with the Lifestyle Research Center and with the AIM Research Center on Artificial Intelligence in Value Creation. His research interests include the social implications of AI, platformization of consumer culture, and digital research methods. His book “Machine Habitus: Toward a Sociology of Algorithms” is forthcoming for Polity Press.