How Can We Design for Value Change?
Different types of strategies are possible to deal with value change in sociotechnical systems. Anticipatory strategies try to predict or anticipate value changes. Currently most approaches do not try to predict value changes but rather develop for example technomoral scenarios to sketch different possible futures. These can then be the basis for deliberation and sociotechnical systems may be so designed that they can deal with certain anticipated value changes or they may be designed in an attempt to steer value change in a certain direction.
However, not all value changes can be predicted or even anticipated. Not only may values change in other ways than anticipated, also how we perceive and morally evaluate value changes may be hard to anticipate beforehand. This means that anticipatory strategies alone are not enough to deal with value change. Partly we may deal with unanticipated value change by adaptive strategies. Possible adaptive strategies include the redesign of some of the technical parts of the sociotechnical systems, redesign of some of the relevant institutions, adaption of the operation of the sociotechnical system (operational strategies) or changing the behavior of the actors in the system (behavior strategies).
However, often it is better to be prepared for adaption beforehand even if the specific to be expected value changes cannot be anticipated. This may be done by employing a range of proactive design strategies, technical as well as institutional. One might think of design strategies or principles like robustness, flexibility, adaptability, modularization, and the building in of artificial intelligence.
Proactive design strategies may employ the distinction between the intended, embedded and realized values of sociotechnical systems. One may, for example, choose to embed values more loosely into sociotechnical systems so there is more room to realize values that deviate from the embedded values. Alternatively, one may choose also to embed values into the system that are perhaps currently less relevant but are likely to become more important in the future; and this may be done in such a way that there is room to change the realized values later.
Similarly, the distinction between values embedded in technology and institutions may be employed to better deal with future value change. While from the viewpoint of short-term efficacy, it may be undesirable if there are tensions between the technologically and institutionally embedded values, in the longer run this may not always be undesirable in the light of potential value change.
As these examples already show employing proactive design strategies to deal with future value change may bring tradeoffs, or even dilemmas, for example between costs and short-term efficacy on the one hand and the ability to effectively deal with future value change. These trade-offs and dilemmas will be investigated in research line 6. The ultimate aim and result of this research lines will be a new approach for dealing with value change that can be integrated in Value Sensitive Design or Design for Values; such an approach will consist of possible design strategies (technical as well as institutional), but also in insights in the mentioned trade-offs and dilemmas.
Anna Melnyk, M.Sc.
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