Blog of the Data Science for the Digital Society research group. Digital Society Innovation, Applied Artificial Intelligence, data analysis and smart living and business.

16 February 2024 | Posted by angela.tuduri

The Invisible Influence of Data | How it Shapes Our Decisions

Have you ever felt that your decisions are not as much your own as you thought?

In the digital age, data has become an invaluable asset. Every click, search or online purchase leaves a trail of information that is collected and analyzed by companies and organizations around the world.  

But beyond the simple collection of data, there is an invisible influence that data exerts on our lives and decisions, shaping our experiences in ways that may not be obvious to the naked eye.  

That amalgam of information that is generated every second in our digital world has an invisible power that shapes our behavior and our decisions without us even knowing it."

- Xavier Vilasís, coordinator of the PhD Program at La Salle-URL

Customizing Information  

The invisible influence of data manifests itself through machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms that use this information to predict and model our future behavior.  

From search engines suggesting personalized results to social media platforms displaying content tailored to our interests, algorithms are constantly working behind the scenes to influence our online decisions and experiences.  

Imagine you're looking for a new series to watch on Netflix. You scroll through the catalog, undecided, until you come to a section that catches your eye: "Recommended for you." You select one of the series that appear and, oh surprise, you're hooked from the first episode.  

What you don't know is that this recommendation was not random. Netflix has analyzed your viewing history, your searches and the ratings you have given to other series to offer you a personalized selection. The data guided your decision, even if you didn't realize it. 

Impact on Purchasing Decisions  

Another important aspect of the invisible influence of data is its impact on our purchasing decisions.  

Algorithms analyze our browsing data, purchase history, social media interactions and more to deliver content that is tailored to our interests and preferences.  

Companies use data analytics to segment consumers and target highly personalized advertising, which can influence our purchasing decisions in subtle but significant ways. From product recommendations to exclusive offers, data-driven strategies are designed to drive sales and maximize customer engagement. 

A power that shapes our opinions  

Social networks are another battleground in the challenge against disinformation. The algorithms that control our feeds are in charge of showing us content that fits our ideas and preferences, creating a sort of "information bubble" where we only hear what we want to hear.  

A recent study revealed that people who only get their information from Facebook are more likely to believe fake news than those who get their information from traditional media. Data is isolating us in our own opinion bubbles, making dialogue, mutual understanding difficult and reinforcing pre-existing biases that limit our exposure to divergent viewpoints. 

We are data | Data Science Education   

The presence of data and information in our daily routine is already a fact. From the decisions we make to the experiences we live, the omnipresence of data shapes the way we interact with the world.  

In the last session organized by La Salle-URL we unraveled the invisible fabric of information that guides our actions and transforms our daily lives, highlighting the importance of:   

  1. Need for holistic approach: Data Science projects must be approached from a business need perspective, focusing on solving concrete problems and not simply applying technology for fashion.  

  1. Evolving skill demands for porfessionals: There is a change in the skill demands for Data Science professionals, which have evolved from a more technical approach to a more holistic one that includes communication skills, business understanding and ethics.  

  1. Importance of common sense and ethics: Despite the advanced technology available, common sense remains a crucial tool in Data Science, helping professionals to assess the relevance and interpretation of the results obtained.  

  1. Focus on data quality: The importance of assessing data quality and understanding its usefulness before performing analysis, highlighting the need for collaboration between Data Scientists and Data Engineers to ensure proper data management 




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