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

Guillaume Dandurand, François Claveau, Jean-François Dubé, Florence Millerand


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.”


expectations; expertise; artificial intelligence; digital humanitarianism; performativity

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