What Values in Design? The Challenge of Incorporating Moral Values into Design

TitleWhat Values in Design? The Challenge of Incorporating Moral Values into Design
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsManders-Huits, N.
Secondary TitleScience and Engineering Ethics
ISBN Number1353-3452
Keywordsapplied ethics, awareness, design, ethics of technology, methodology, technology, value-conscious design, value-sensitive design, Values

Recently, there is increased attention to the integration of moral values into the conception, design, and development of emerging IT. The most reviewed approach for this purpose in ethics and technology so far is Value-Sensitive Design (VSD). This article considers VSD as the prime candidate for implementing normative considerations into design. Its methodology is considered from a conceptual, analytical, normative perspective. The focus here is on the suitability of VSD for integrating moral values into the design of technologies in a way that joins in with an analytical perspective on ethics of technology. Despite its promising character, it turns out that VSD falls short in several respects: (1) VSD does not have a clear methodology for identifying stakeholders, (2) the integration of empirical methods with conceptual research within the methodology of VSD is obscure, (3) VSD runs the risk of committing the naturalistic fallacy when using empirical knowledge for implementing values in design, (4) the concept of values, as well as their realization, is left undetermined and (5) VSD lacks a complimentary or explicit ethical theory for dealing with value trade-offs. For the normative evaluation of a technology, I claim that an explicit and justified ethical starting point or principle is required. Moreover, explicit attention should be given to the value aims and assumptions of a particular design. The criteria of adequacy for such an approach or methodology follow from the evaluation of VSD as the prime candidate for implementing moral values in design.