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SRI Seminar Series: Salomé Viljoen, “Valuing social data”

October 4, 2023, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

SRI Seminar Series: Salome Viljoen

Our weekly SRI Seminar Series welcomes Salomé Viljoen, an assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School who studies the information economy, the social impacts of automation, and how legal structures can impact inequality.

Viljoen’s current work is on the political economy of social data, including the legal status and implications of social data, and how laws regulate its creation and use. She also works on algorithmic governance, particularly the use of economic optimization methods in digital settings. Viljoen primarily undertakes this work in technical and socio-technical venues, bringing legal insights into conversations over AI ethics, algorithmic fairness, and machine learning.

Talk title

“Valuing social data”


Social data production is a unique form of value creation that characterizes informational capitalism. Social data production also presents critical challenges for the various legal regimes that are encountering it. This talk surveys tools for legal scholars and policymakers to comprehend this new form of value creation through two descriptive contributions. First, it presents a theoretical account of social data, a mode of production which is cultivated and exploited for two distinct (albeit related) forms of value: prediction value and exchange value. Second, it creates and defends a taxonomy of three “scripts” that companies follow to build up and leverage prediction value and describes the normative and legal ramifications of these scripts. Separately analyzing data’s prediction value and its exchange value may be helpful to understanding the challenges the law faces in governing social data production and the political economy surrounding such production. This improved understanding will equip legal scholars to better confront the harms of law’s failures in the face of informational capitalism, reduce legal arbitrage by powerful actors, and facilitate opportunities to maximize the beneficial potential of social data value.

Suggested reading

Amanda Parsons and Salomé Viljoen, “Valuing Social Data” (July 17, 2023). Columbia Law Review, Forthcoming, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 23-16, U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 23-038, U of Michigan Law & Econ Research Paper No. 23-038.

About Salomé Viljoen

Salomé Viljoen is an assistant professor of law at Michigan Law School, where she teaches and writes about contracts, privacy, commercial surveillance, and data governance. Viljoen works on the law and political economy of data and artificial intelligence (AI). She explores the role of law in structuring digital life, and the effect of the digital political economy on law. She is especially interested in platform power, how information law structures inequality, and how law theorizes data about people (e.g. “social data”).

Some of her recent and forthcoming work develops a theory of affirmative, socially beneficial uses of social data, and examines the role of public agencies in gathering, governing, and using social data as a form of public governance. Other recent and forthcoming work considers under what kinds of conditions the datafication of social life is morally or legally wrongful. Broadly, she is interested in what legal status social data enjoys, what kinds of legal interests social data production and use implicates, and how the law does (and should) regulate the digital economy.

Viljoen’s academic work has appeared or is forthcoming in places like the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law ReviewBig Data & Society, and the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency. She also writes essays and articles for places like Nature, the GuardianLogic Magazine, and Phenomenal World.


To register for the event, visit the official event page.

About the SRI Seminar Series

The SRI Seminar Series brings together the Schwartz Reisman community and beyond for a robust exchange of ideas that advance scholarship at the intersection of technology and society. Seminars are led by a leading or emerging scholar and feature extensive discussion.

Each week, a featured speaker will present for 45 minutes, followed by an open discussion. Registered attendees will be emailed a Zoom link before the event begins. The event will be recorded and posted online.


October 4, 2023
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
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Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society
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