Social Dynamics of Expectations and Expertise: AI in Digital Humanitarian Innovation

  • Guillaume Dandurand Université de Sherbrooke
  • François Claveau Université de Sherbrooke
  • Jean-François Dubé Université de Sherbrooke
  • Florence Millerand Université du Québec à Montréal
Keywords: expectations, expertise, artificial intelligence, digital humanitarianism, performativity


Public discourse typically blurs the boundary between what artificial intelligence (AI) actually achieves and what it could accomplish in the future. The sociology of expectations teaches us that such elisions play a performative role: they encourage heterogeneous actors to partake, at various levels, in innovation activities. This article explores how optimistic expectations for AI concretely motivate and mobilize actors, how much heterogeneity hides behind the seeming congruence of optimistic visions, and how the expected technological future is in fact difficult to enact as planned. Our main theoretical contribution is to examine the role of heterogeneous expertises in shaping the social dynamics of expectations, thereby connecting the sociology of expectations with the study of expertise and experience. In our case study of a humanitarian organization, we deploy this theoretical contribution to illustrate how heterogeneous specialists negotiate the realization of contending visions of “digital humanitarianism.”

Author Biographies

Guillaume Dandurand, Université de Sherbrooke

At the time of writing, Guillaume Dandurand was Postdoctoral Fellow in the Département de philosophie et d’éthique appliquée, Université de Sherbrooke. Guillaume is now Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institut national de la recherche scientifique. In 2019, Guillaume was awarded the Dissertation Prize by York University for his doctoral research on the digitization of welfare in India.

François Claveau, Université de Sherbrooke

François Claveau is Associate Professor in the Département de philosophie et d’éthique appliquée, Université de Sherbrooke. François holds the Canada Research Chair in Applied Epistemology, is a regular member of the Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST) and of the Centre de recherche en éthique (CRÉ). He has recently been awarded the Prix Tremplin from Université de Sherbrooke for his original contribution to research on digital humanities.

Jean-François Dubé, Université de Sherbrooke

Jean-François Dubé teaches philosophy at the Cégep de Granby and is a former humanitarian worker. Jean-François has built a unique research portfolio in action research, applied epistemology, and digital humanitarianism. Jean-François is also a member of the Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’IA et du numérique.

Florence Millerand, Université du Québec à Montréal

Florence Millerand is Professor in the Département de communication sociale et publique, Université du Québec à Montréal. Florence also co-supervises the Laboratory for Communication and the Digital and is a regular member of the Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie.


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27 Nov 2020
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