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Accepted Paper:

The responsibility of ethics. An ethnography of the French National Committee for Digital Ethics  
Camille Darche (Université Paris Nanterre)

Paper short abstract:

An investigation within the French National Committee for Digital Ethics offers a way to explore ethnographically the concept of responsibility.It also presents a counterpoint to question the interweaving of responsibility, authority and power - both in ethical and anthropological reflection.

Paper long abstract:

Ethical thinking about new technologies often appears as an attempt to navigate between excessive prudence and lack of anticipation. This paper, based on a two-years investigation within the French National Committee for Digital Ethics intends to go beyond the understanding of responsibility as some sort of risk management and to apprehend ethnographically other aspects of this notion.

At first, this Committee may appear as an institutional guarantee established to prevent risks induced by digital transformation. Nevertheless, members often insist on the fact that ethical thinking should go beyond the notion of risk and also assume some responsibility in shaping better worlds by opening up possibilities - without pointing to any particular one themselves. They rather try to enlighten the choices of everyone imagining, designing, manufacturing, regulating or using digital technologies - to offer to each one of them ways to assume their own responsibilities.Thus we are left with an apparent paradox where the committee has a certain moral obligation towards society, but denies having any political legitimacy for exercising it.

This paradox echoes the ambiguities early career anthropologists sometime discover in their first fieldworks : we also have some moral obligation towards our interlocutors in the field yet cannot speak for them.

The analysis of the articulation between the moral and the political dimensions of the responsibility of this committee then offers an opportunity to question the relationship between responsibility, authority and power more generally.

Panel PlenB
Responsibility: Early Career Scholars Forum
  Session 1