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Vacancy | Delft
Posted on April 18, 2023

The potential of living labs for the ethics of technology

Do you want to contribute to new empirical methods for studying moral value in technological living labs as part of a large international research programme?

Job description

You investigate how living labs can contribute to the philosophical and empirical study of value experiences of stakeholders in the phase of prototyping and (small-scale) experimentation with new technologies. This phase has received relatively scant attention in approaches at the intersection of ethics and engineering. You develop and deploy new empirical and philosophical approaches and methods to collect and reflect upon stakeholders’ value experiences. Scrutinizing and philosophically interpreting such value experiences is crucial for developing more responsible technologies.

Value experiences involve perceptions and emotions, but they also have a reflective and interpretative component. Relevant philosophical research on value experiences includes research on moral emotions and moral perception, as well as research on “transformative experiences”, research on situated, enacted, and embodied cognition, and research involving the pragmatist notion of “experiments in living”. Value experiences are crucial for (1) validating if a proposed design (prototype) is aligned with the values it claims to respect, (2) discovering new ethical issues that were not anticipated beforehand, and (3) tracing potential disruptive effects of new technologies on existing values and moral concepts (which might require rethinking these concepts).

The prime focus of the project is on the methodological question how to empirically collect and interpret value experiences (e.g., through interviews, participant observation, ethnographic methods, experiments, etc.). This requires taking a stance on the philosophical question as to what exactly value experiences are, how they differ from other experiences, or desires and preferences, and under what conditions they are normatively reliable. We do not expect you to develop a new philosophical account of value experiences, but rather to investigate how value experiences can be empirically researched in the context of technological development.

You will contribute to practical methods that can be employed in an engineering or design context. To do this, you collaborate with the Responsible Sensing Lab (RSL) of the city of Amsterdam. The envisaged output includes prototypes of responsible smart urban technologies that are relevant to the city of Amsterdam. You will use these prototypes in experiments to try out some of the possible methods for collecting value experiences of users and stakeholders. You will also explore possible collaborations with other partners, such as the Design Lab (UT), the Green Village (TU Delft), de Waag (Amsterdam), existing living labs at the TU/e, and the ELSA AI Labs funded by NWO.

This postdoc position will be part of the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme, an international research programme of seven academic institutions in the Netherlands that has started in January 2020. The programme has the aim of achieving breakthrough research in at the intersection of ethics, philosophy, technology and social sciences, and to position its consortium at the top of its field internationally. A key objective is to investigate how new technologies challenge moral values and ontological concepts (like “nature”, “human being” and “community”), and how these challenges necessitate a revision of these concepts. The project is embedded in the Human Condition research line and the STEM track of the ESDiT programme. Further information can be obtained from the ESDiT website: ESDIT

You will be employed at the section Ethics and Philosophy of Technology of the Department Values, Technology and Innovation Technology, Policy and Management of Tu Delft. More information can be found at Values Technology and Innovation



– You have, or are about to receive, a PhD in Philosophy, Science and Technology Studies (STS), design research, ethnography or a related discipline.

– You have demonstrated affinity with, and expertise in philosophy (in case you do not have a degree in philosophy).

– You have affinity with technology, design and empirical research.

– You are proficient in English.

– You are able to do independent research and have excellent writing and publication skills.

– Experience with transdisciplinary work, qualitative research methods and design methods and practices is an asset.

You are expected to perform high quality and internationally visible research with publications in peer-reviewed journals. You will be supervised by Prof. dr. ir. Ibo van de Poel (Technical University Delft), Dr. Julia Hermann (Philosophy Section, University of Twente) and Dr. Matthew Dennis (Philosophy & Ethics group, Eindhoven University of Technology).

Your work location is Delft. We expect that you will move to the Netherlands, to the region where the university is located or to a region from which a daily commute is feasible.


Conditions of employment

We offer a three-year fulltime postdoc position, preferably starting September 1, 2023.

– We provide excellent mentorship and a stimulating research environment.

– We encourage a high degree of responsibility and independence, while collaborating with close colleagues, researchers and other university staff, as well as with other partners within the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies consortium.

– We offer generous (conference) travel budgets.

Salary and benefits are in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities. The TU Delft offers a customisable compensation package, a discount on health insurance and sport memberships, and a monthly work costs contribution. Flexible work schedules can be arranged.

For international applicants we offer the Coming to Delft Service and Partner Career Advice to assist you with your relocation. An International Children’s Centre offers childcare and there is an international primary school.


TU Delft (Delft University of Technology)

Delft University of Technology is built on strong foundations. As creators of the world-famous Dutch waterworks and pioneers in biotech, TU Delft is a top international university combining science, engineering and design. It delivers world class results in education, research and innovation to address challenges in the areas of energy, climate, mobility, health and digital society. For generations, our engineers have proven to be entrepreneurial problem-solvers, both in business and in a social context.

At TU Delft we embrace diversity as one of our core values and we actively engage to be a university where you feel at home and can flourish. We value different perspectives and qualities. We believe this makes our work more innovative, the TU Delft community more vibrant and the world more just. Together, we imagine, invent and create solutions using technology to have a positive impact on a global scale. That is why we invite you to apply. Your application will receive fair consideration.

Challenge. Change. Impact!


Faculty Technology, Policy and Management

The Faculty of TPM provides an important contribution to solving complex technical-social issues, such as energy transition, mobility, digitalisation, water management and (cyber) security. TPM does this with its excellent education and research at the intersection of technology, society and policy. We combine insights from both engineering and social sciences as well as the humanities. TPM develops robust models and designs, is internationally oriented and has an extensive network of knowledge institutions, companies, social organisations and governments.

Click here to go to the website of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management.


Additional information

For more information about this vacancy, please contact Dr. Julia Hermann .

For more information about the application procedure, please contact Olivie Beek, HR advisor, email:


Application procedure

Are you interested in this vacancy? Please apply before 15 May 2023 via the application button and upload your documents:

  • A motivation letter
  • A Curriculum Vitae
  • A research proposal (approx. 2 pages)
  • A writing sample (an article of a chapter of your dissertation

Please note:

You can apply online. We will not process applications sent by email and/or post.

Incomplete applications will not be processed.

A pre-employment screening can be part of the selection procedure.

Please do not contact us for unsolicited services.

Please note that there will be other vacancies in the Ethics of Socially Disruptive Technologies programme at different participating universities. In case several are of interest to you, we want to encourage you to apply to them simultaneously.

We are an equal opportunity employer and value diversity at our university. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, veteran status, or disability status. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to participate in the job application or interview process, to perform essential job functions, and to receive other benefits and privileges of employment.

We particularly encourage applications from a non-Western background as well as applications from female applicants.   

More information can be found here.


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