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Managing avalanches

Denise Pumain
Traduction de Emma Maisonnave
Cet article est une traduction de :
De la gestion des avalanches
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
La gestión de las avalanchas

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1It is surprising that in our societies, which are more than ever informed and sensitive to risks, anticipating the effects of new technologies on our vulnerabilities remains very rare. Political institutions intervene at too late a stage, when a major innovation has already produced disruptive social effects. Digital technologies have brought us an avalanche of data, upsetting from top to bottom the nature and form of our sources of information, projecting at the centre of the global economy and finances the giant Web companies, while generating growing perplexity as to the transparency and traceability of knowledge. We should at least welcome the initiative of the European General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect on May 25th 2018 in order to re-establish some legal principles in this new emerging world order.

2Scientists are also organising themselves to avoid a repetition of the historical trend that sees bad money driving out good since Spain in the Golden Age. Massive data, or big data, have repeatedly demonstrated their limitations as well as their strengths. The positive effect of this avalanche of data is the creation of new algorithms invented to process and visualise them. On the pioneer front of exploration, data becomes a wealth of resources, the data scientist a perfect adventurer of this new eldorado, and specialised centres are created everywhere to enter the value chain, within universities and companies as well as in any smart city.

3Yet, in most cases, these new data, if they have been developed for purposes other than those imagined when they were collected, are deceiving because they barely contribute to the advancement of knowledge. The collection of appropriate data, designed to provide answers to a given question, remains a necessary exercise, often tedious if done well, and always risky when evaluating the relation between the effort and investment made and the utility of the results. To do justice to this necessary step of any scientific work, Cybergeo has introduced a section of data papers. The aim is also to encourage the sharing and reuse of data as well as the reproducibility of experiences.

4The Internet tsunami not only produces an avalanche of data, it has also accelerated all processes of globalisation by linking together many societies and cultures that can no longer ignore each other. As experts of the differentiation of environments and societies in the world, geographers must learn to manage their relationship to data to anticipate the multiple consequences of this other avalanche, still too little known and mastered.

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Denise Pumain, « Managing avalanches », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 25 mai 2018, consulté le 11 décembre 2018. URL :

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