An important notion in the 3TU.Ethics research program is that of value-sensitive design. This is an approach to the study of ethics and technology that assumes that the outcome of design processes is not neutral, but ethically laden, and that morally relevant considerations inform the shaping of the world of artifacts. A value-sensitive design approach situates moral questions early on in the process of design, development of technologies, systems and research. It proposes rational procedures for designing artifacts under the guidance of moral values.
In the last decades insights and methods have been developed within ethics and other disciplines that can contribute to a more socially responsible innovation, good policy an adequate political decision making. One of the central notions in the past years in ethical thinking about technology and innovation is the concept of Value Sensitive Design (VSD). It means thinking, in an early stage of the development process or application of new technology or infrastructure, about relevant social and moral values and the integration of those in the innovative project.
Value-sensitive design enables engineers and developers to give conflicting social values a place in smart design and to combine them is such a way as to reach a win-win situation. If you want to walk outside and you want to stay dry, but it rains, an innovation such as an umbrella brings a solution. If you want privacy and safety in the public space, you should not implement regular camera’s but rather a camera system that can be installed in such a way that you have images of the public space available, while you can also set limits to how these images can be used. The community may benefit because more attention is paid to public values such as safety and privacy. Companies may become more successful because their innovations are more easily accepted. The economy may profit because faster and more successful innovation takes place.
- Video of a presentation by Jeroen van den Hoven about ICT and Value Sensitive Design (panel 5 of conference “Protecting Privacy in a Borderless World”)